Federation of Labour stands behind Big Trout Lake

Kenora Daily Miner and News

By Jon Thompson

Nov. 29, 2011

The Ontario Federation of Labour is putting its weight behind the moratorium on exploration in the traditional territory of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (Big Trout Lake) First Nation.

Saying the province could be headed for another Ipperwash, Canada's largest labour federation is demanding Ontario and the prospecting corporations it licenses to respect the time it will take the first nation to identify sacred burial sites and spiritually significant areas before any development can proceed.

"Ontario must immediately cease its flagrant disregard for KI land rights and sacred burial sites," Ontario Federation of Labour president Sid Ryan said in a release after 51 unions present at the federation's biennial convention voted for an action plan to support Big Trout Lake. "Has the government learned nothing from the Ipperwash tragedy? These very same circumstances were found to be at the root of that disgraceful conflict under former Conservative Premier Mike Harris when Dudley George was shot dead in a dispute over protection of sacred burials."

Gold company God's Lake Resources has announced it intends to continue exploration in December, defying an eviction order from the First Nation and insisting Ontario has given it the legal right to operate in the region.

KI walked away from discussions with the province on Nov. 14, saying Ontario couldn't promise it would stop the company from disturbing grave sites while a resolution is negotiated.

Chief Donny Morris was one of the KI-6, the name given to the community's leadership that was jailed by Ontario in 2008 for standing up to mining company, Platinex Inc. The KI-6 were released upon appeal to promises of a new relationship of consultation and accommodation and Ontario paid the company $5 million to settle the resulting lawsuit.

"In 2008, just before we were jailed, Ontario promised us a joint panel to resolve our outstanding issues with mining companies," Morris said. "We are still waiting for them to honour that promise, yet Ontario continues to permit mining companies to desecrate our ancestor's graves. If First Nations don't have the right to say 'no' to the desecration of a sacred area, then we have no rights at all."