Gull Bay First Nation Chief King Explains Highway 527 Issue

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Gull Bay First Nation supplied image
Gull Bay First Nation supplied image

Gull Bay First Nation supplied image
Gull Bay First Nation supplied image

GULL BAY FN – This morning at 10 o’clock, Chief Wilfred King and the Council of Kiashke Zaaging Anishinaabek – Gull Bay First Nation (KZA-GBFN) will meet again with North American Palladium/Lac des lies (NAP/LOI) mining executives Jim Gallagher, President and CEO, and Wayne Scott, VP Human Resources, Aboriginal Affairs & Environment, after talks broke off on Friday to end what media sources are defining as a road blockade and a protest.

“It was somewhat of a surprise to us that at the end of Friday morning’s discussion and after only quickly meeting three times over two days, Jim (Gallagher) offered Monday/today as the next available opportunity to speak further on the intentions of both parties to address our collective issues and move forward in building a more meaningful relationship”, said King.

“We were completely prepared to continue to meet later that same day and throughout the weekend, and remained hopeful that as time progressed, he would have reconsidered the value of pressing onward with a greater sense of urgency to the benefit of the mine’s operational requirements. I respect that there was reason behind his logic and I am hopeful that today’s talks are as positive as those to which we were engaged in prior to the break.”

Chief King contacted Minister of Northern Development & Mines Michael Gravelle on Thursday to join both parties in the discussions but Gravelle cited that he was unable to do so during the election writ period. At the Chief’s request, Minister Gravelle reached out to Deputy Minister David de Launay who is set to arrive from Toronto early this morning and be onsite at noon today. He will be accompanied by the Assistant Deputy Minister of Mines Christine Kaszycki.

“Contrary to what has been reported by the media and on social websites, KZA-GBFN has not slowed or blocked traffic on Highway 527 nor have we set up any barricades on the decommissioned logging road know as Fensom Road 690 located on Crown land. We have advised mining staff and associated vendors/visitors who are stopped at our gathering place that there are three routes in total to access the site and we are only located on one of them.”

As a show of good faith towards continuing discussions, KZA-GBFN agreed on Thursday to permit food, medical supplies, and mine rescue vehicles through the event area, but since Friday morning, LOI management was advising vehicular traffic to use Fensom Road. KZA­ GBFN witnessed LOI staff, vendors and fuel/food services trucks utilizing access via Fensom.

Also, KZA-GBFN has appropriately advised Ministry of Natural Resources & Forestry and permitted entrance by their staff to the Rinker Lake forward firefighting attack base which is located in close proximity to the Nation’s roadway encampment assuring that it remains accessibletotheThunderBayForestRangersinthebestinterestofhealthandsafety.

Chief King says that he has had no interference from policing authorities since the event began on Thursday morning and that there has been only one vehicle which presented somewhat challenging circumstances in their attempt to disrupt this Nation’s land occupation gathering.

He relays that OPP officers have been on site throughout the course of events and have been witnesses to the peaceful activities that KZA-GBFN Citizens have been participating. These have included land-based/subsistence resource undertakings, group discussions surrounding self-determination, and other such teachable moments around the fire when information relative to the differences between Inherent Rights, Constitutionally protected Aboriginal Rights and Rights associated with the Robinson-Superior Treaty were shared.

Chief King goes on to reiterate that his Council and Citizens of the sovereign Nation of KZA­ GBFN will continue to exercise their Inherent Rights to their Territory, which assures their ability to govern land use, environmental monitoring and resource management in a responsible manner for seven generations into the future.

Chief King goes on, “Over the past several years, we have attempted to engage LOI executives as to the requirement of and usefulness in the establishment of meaningful consultation protocols between the two parties. Time and time again, we have sat across the table from mining executives and have conceded on our own requests as not to operationally hinder their attempts of business recovery. To date, we have obtained a ‘Letter of Mutual Respect and Understanding’ that has sadly proven to demonstrate that LOI respects only its own financial bottom line and understands, to the point of reliance, that the Crown will seemingly do nothing to prevent the continued infringements of KZA-GBFN Rights.”

“We have experienced first hand the negative impacts of area mining activities that have been historically carried out with little regard for, and in violation of, our Rights – as the Indigenous peoples on whose Territory LOI is located. We will not permit our Territory to be further impacted. I will not permit the further infringement to my Nation’s Rights or allow industries that conduct business in our Territory to potentially jeopardize the natural environment and state of the land. For Seven Generations to come, I am responsible for and accountable for assuring their safety, health, well-being and sustained the longevity of KZA-GBFN as a People”, says King.

“When a community/Nation has access to its own resources and wealth from its lands, allother issues, such as health, housing, education, etc., become ‘non-issues’ as KZA- Gull Bay FN would then control an extensive sum of revenue – generated from our Territory. For KZA­ GBFN, the reality of self-governmentoverourLandisthedifferencebetweendependencyand prosperity.”