GRASSY NARROWS – Grassy Narrows First Nation has launched a legal action against Ontario for issuing nine mining exploration permits which authorize companies to drill for gold on Grassy Narrows Territory.
“We are on a healing path for our people and the forest is our treatment center,” said Grassy Narrows Chief Randy Fobister. “We need our forest intact, but the government isn’t working with us, they are working against us. They need to stop logging and mining so the land can heal. Good land will heal our people from all the damage the government has been pushing on us like mercury and industry. That is reconciliation for us. Let us use our land to heal. I invite Ontario to join us on this path.”
The legal action asks the court to cancel the permits which Ontario issued without consulting Grassy Narrows, and without their consent. Grassy Narrows asserts that the permits violate both Grassy Narrows’ Indigenous law, and Ontario’s own laws, as well as the Constitution of Canada. The permitted mining exploration threatens to compound the cumulative harm that Grassy Narrows has already suffered from residential schools, hydro dams, relocation, mercury pollution, and clearcut logging.
Ontario issued the mining permits between 2018 and 2021 during a time when the number of mining claims granted by Ontario on Grassy Narrows’ Territory boomed from a few hundred to nearly 4,000 claims. Ontario failed to consult with Grassy Narrows about the permits which overlap with the area that Grassy Narrows declared as an Indigenous Sovereignty and Protected Area under Grassy Narrows law in 2018.
“Ontario says they didn’t know that Grassy Narrows cared about the area that these permits overlap,” said Chief Randy Fobister. “That is very hard to believe because my people have been fighting to protect this same area for decades in the courts, in negotiations, blockades, and boycotts. Unless your head is in the sand, you have to know that this is Grassy Narrows Territory, and we are protecting it.”
Grassy Narrows is steadfast in their decades long fight to protect their people, and the land that they rely on, from further industrial logging and mining. In 2002 grassroots Grassy Narrows youth, women, and land users initiated a logging blockade that is now celebrated as the longest standing blockade in Canadian history. This small community succeeded against all odds to remove the world’s largest newsprint producer from their Territory. But Grassy Narrows Territory is at risk once again.
“Since Premier Ford came into power there has been a huge expansion of mining claims and permits on our Territory, and now the government is starting to plan for more industrial logging on part of our Territory again,” said Chief Fobister. “How many times must our people fight off these attacks on our health and our way of life? It is long past time for Ontario to listen to Grassy Narrows and to walk with us on the path of protection, healing, and reconciliation.”
Grassy Narrows is bringing its judicial application to the Ontario Divisional Court.