TORONTO – INDIGENOUS – Cat Lake First Nation Chief Russell Wesley made a powerful statement today at the Chiefs of Ontario (COO) conference (representing the 133 Ontario First Nation communities) in Toronto. During his speech, Chief Wesley unveiled a button that represents the strength and resilience of the Cat Lake First Nation community (a remote fly-in reserve located 180 km NW of Sioux Lookout), as well as their unwavering commitment to defending their land and culture.
The button depicts Premier Doug Ford on a bulldozer being observed by Lynx cats, symbolizing the ongoing struggle between the Cat Lake First Nation and the Province of Ontario. The caption “Cat Lake First Nation Strong” and “Defend Land and Culture” underscore the community’s determination to protect their ancestral lands and stand up against encroachment.
Chief Wesley began his speech by addressing the Band Council Resolution recently ratified by Cat Lake First Nation, which reiterates their existing moratorium on mining exploration and related road construction within their territory, located 400 km northwest of Thunder Bay. This resolution has been sent to Premier Ford, the Ontario Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks, the Minister of Mines, and the Minister of Indigenous Affairs, along with First Mining Gold Corporation.
The Chief expressed deep concern over the province’s intention to issue permits for exploration by First Mining Gold Corporation, specifically for the proposed Springpole Mine Project on Cat Lake First Nation’s Aboriginal Title lands. He highlighted the fact that this goes against the community’s wishes and their united stance against encroachment. The moratorium on mining activity was blatantly disregarded in the past when road construction took place on their lands.
Furthermore, Chief Wesley emphasized the ecological significance of the proposed mine project, which involves partially draining a Lake Trout (Salvelinus namaycush or Namegoos in the local dialect) lake. Lake Trout lakes are exceptionally rare, accounting for only one percent of Ontario’s lakes. These lakes play a vital role in the conservation of Lake Trout and are of global importance.
Chief Wesley’s speech concluded with a call for unity among the conference attendees and fellow Chiefs, urging them to stand in solidarity with the Cat Lake First Nation. He emphasized the need to raise their voices and ensure that the collective sovereignty of Indigenous communities is respected.