BATCHEWANA FIRST NATION – Garden River and Batchewana First Nations are joining forces to battle the continued harassment of their citizens by the Ontario Government. Most recently, The Ministry of Natural Resources, and their officers have been violating Aboriginal and Treaty Rights to hunt and fish (affirmed and recognized under the Robinson?Huron Treaty of 1850) by imposing flawed enforcement policies outside of their jurisdiction.
Both Garden River and Batchewana First Nation’s Councils have voiced their frustrations regarding Ontario’s attempts through legislation to unilaterally extinguish First Nations rights to manage their own territories.
Chiefs of both First Nation’s support the idea of safety while exercising rights to the resources, a concept that has been practiced for thousands of years under traditional Ojibway laws. Chief Lyle Sayers commented, “As distinct Nation’s provincial legislation is not required to tell us how to act or behave in our natural environment”.
To avoid and prevent the escalating frustration and potential conflict both First Nation’s Councils are calling on Premiere Dalton McGuinty, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Chris Bentley and, Natural Resource Minister Linda Jeffrey to recognize that their government does not have any authority or jurisdiction over First Nation’s Territorial lands.
“Provincial agents are aggravating a volatile situation, harassment is disguised under MNR’s current enforcement policies and we cannot sit idly by while Ontario systemically starves our people”, stated Chief Dean Sayers.
Both First Nations will be working together to re?establish a historic relationship to advance and protect First Nation’s rights, to oversee any attacks against these rights, and further will be calling upon the leadership of the Chiefs of Ontario and the Assembly of First Nations to collaborate on this effort.
In the interim Chief Dean Sayers, Chief Lyle Sayers and their Councils are recommending and advising their citizens to abide by the following protocols if they are confronted with harassment while exercising their rights to hunt/fish; Show First Nation’s Identification Card, and provide contact information for your First Nation if further information is requested. All visiting First Nation members must apply for a Hunting & Harvesting permit and register with the First Nation they are visiting before engaging in any hunting, fishing or harvesting activities on that territory.
Chiefs are advising Ontario, the MNR in particular, when their technicians are presented with First Nation’s identification cards that they are to cease any further action and contact their First Nation’s Natural Resource Department for direction on how to proceed. This will minimize conflict and protect the safety of all.
Chief Lyle Sayers commented further, “Since time immemorial we have used the sacred gift to hunt and fish to sustain our families and communities in the spirit of sharing with our Elders and needy. As a Nation we will continue to exercise this right and to do so unmolested”.
At all costs both First Nation’s will work to avoid conflict and potential injury and will exercise diplomatic prerogatives with the Provincial Government. However, First Nation’s leadership from Batchewana and Garden River will not negotiate the existing, historic rights of any First Nation’s citizens.
In closing Chief Lyle Sayers, and Chief Dean Sayers added, “While our dispute is with the Province of Ontario, Canada has a trust responsibility to ensure the protection of our rights as well. Ontario, if you believe you have jurisdiction over our resources, show us the receipt where we gave it to you, stop pulling the wool over the public’s eyes.”