Northern Ontario First Nation vows to use its own laws to control traditional lands

Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug leaders went to jail in 2008 to prevent mining activity on traditional lands

Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug elders, such as 92-year-old Mary Albany, (right), Mary Jane Crow and Elsie Fox played a significant role in the 'two anchors' of the First Nations sovereignty declaration, according to the chief.

Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug elders, such as 92-year-old Mary Albany, (right), Mary Jane Crow and Elsie Fox played a significant role in the 'two anchors' of the First Nations sovereignty declaration, according to the chief.

Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug elders, such as 92-year-old Mary Albany, (right), Mary Jane Crow and Elsie Fox played a significant role in the 'two anchors' of the First Nations sovereignty declaration, according to the chief. (Jody Porter/CBC)

 

A northern Ontario First Nation is spelling out the laws it says must be followed when anyone from outside the community takes any action that could affect its traditional lands.

Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, (K.I.) formerly known as Big Trout Lake First Nation issued a 'Declaration of Sovereignty and Governance and Assertion of Inherent and Treaty Rights' last week.

The community's effort to encode its laws was prompted by the jailing of six members of the First Nation's council in 2008, after they resisted a mining company's efforts to explore on K.I.'s traditional lands, said Chief James Cutfeet.

"The community of K.I. vowed not to have a similar incident happen again and thereafter the consultation protocol document was developed," he said.

The Ontario Court of Appeal released the K.I. leaders after they served more than two months in jail. 

The incident continues to reverberate within the community, Cutfeet said, especially since the company involved in the dispute recently sent a letter to the First Nation wanting to try working together again.

"In my opinion we could help out if they want to move ahead with a look at the property," Platinex president James Trussler told CBC News.

'We see it as an asset'

In 2009, Ontario paid Platinex $5 million to settle a lawsuit about the dispute. The deal removed the property Platinex had staked from mineral exploration. Platinex is also entitled to receive a royalty of 2.5 per cent if a mine is developed on those lands.

"We're interested in that going ahead…we see it as an asset," Trussler said, nearly a decade after taking K.I. to court.

But, Trussler added, it's up to the province to "sort out issues" relating to treaty rights, which are "completely outside the purview of a private company and always have been."

Chief Cutfeet said the First Nation is working with the government on an agreement to recognize K.I.'s right to self-determination and recognition of responsibilities to its "homelands."

The declaration includes what Cutfeet calls the 'two anchors:" affadavits from elders about their understanding of the treaty relationship with the Crown and research, including maps of traditional land use.

It also includes a consultation protocol and a framework for collaborating with other levels of government to "inform the allowable activities that can be taken by non-Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug peoples upon the homelands, the processes that are required allowing such activities and the authority and jurisdiction exercised by Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug."

A spokesperson for Ontario's Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation said on Monday that the province has not yet received a copy of the declaration.