TORONTO – The Ontario Federation of Labour has come out in support of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation. In a press release issued today, the OFL states, “Canada’s largest labour federation is demanding that Ontario respect Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) Nation’s moratorium to protect their burials and sacred lands from desecration by mining exploration. Ontario has allowed exploration company God’s Lake Resources to stake claims directly on top of sacred KI burials. The company has dismissed KI’s concerns as rhetoric, indicating that they intend to continue exploration at the site in December”.
“Ontario must immediately cease its flagrant disregard for KI land rights and sacred burial sites,” said OFL President Sid Ryan. “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.”
Negotiations between KI and Ontario broke off on Nov. 14, after Ontario refused to stop the company from disturbing the graves while a resolution is negotiated. KI leaders are urgently calling for a halt to mining exploration that could permanently damage KI’s sacred territory.
“The 51 unions present at our Biennial Convention have voted for an action plan to support KI,” said OFL’s newly elected Executive Vice-President Irwin Nanda. “We will not rest while the basic human and democratic rights of our Aboriginal Sisters and Brothers are being violated.”
“In 2008, just before we were jailed, Ontario promised us a joint panel to resolve our outstanding issues with mining companies. 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,” said KI Chief Donny Morris.
The OFL states, “In 2008, the KI became a national cause celebre when six of their leaders, including Morris, were jailed for defending their lands against unwanted mining exploration in a dispute with Canadian mining company Platinex Inc. Ultimately, the Ontario government paid Platinex $5 million to settle a lawsuit with the company stemming from the government’s failure to properly consult KI”.
During the week-long OFL convention, a KI delegation met with numerous politicians including MPs Olivia Chow and Charlie Angus, as well as faith organizations, labour councils, locals and national unions.