Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Serpent River Chief Awaits Minister Response to Preconsultation on Uranium

[Received in an email from Mining Watch.]

Monday, March 16th, 2009 - Cutler, Ontario


Chief Isadore Day, Wiindawtegowinini, continues to await the Minister of Northern Development and Mines' response to a pre-consultation commitment on the issue of uranium mining in the traditional and treaty territory of Serpent River First Nation.

Ongoing discussions have occurred between Serpent River First Nation and the ministry on this matter for well over a year and the Chief now wants the ministry to know that it's time to move on its duty to consult.

Chief Day says "Our position is that consultation must be accommodated by ensuring that all meaningful preparations are made between governments. That means Northern Development and Serpent River First Nation."

He goes on to say, "The Crown must be honourable in its responsibility here and not expect that we will accept any engagement or monies from industry as the solution. It is clear that uranium is a serious issue and we demand that governments and all their responsible authorities and lead agencies act according to their respective mandates."

Uranium mining approvals are governed under two jurisdictions in Ontario and Canada. Serpent River First Nation currently has a number of active licensed uranium mine tailing management areas in its traditional territory that will remain toxic-radioactive fields for thousands of years. Chief Day is concerned that this is not a baseline consideration taken into account while Ontario endorses exploration to continue. Chief Day asks the question "How much more can the land take and does the watershed have a carrying capacity to deal with any more waste?" These are questions that should be asked even before the Crown allows industry to spend millions in exploration.

The Serpent River First Nation is concerned that as the Ontario Mining Act changes move forward that Canada and Ontario are acting in a silo mentality on the matters that affect First Nation lands, interests and concerns. The Chief points out - "Uranium does not discriminate against race, region, or responsible jurisdiction - this mineral and its waste has the potential to impact the quality of life of mankind and the environment for many generations."

The Chief and Council of Serpent River First Nation want to remind the public that the First Nation holds a default opposition on any development in its territory and is specific to the issue of uranium mineral exploration and production.

One of the more critical positions that the Chief raises as the Lake Huron Treaty Commissioner is that Treaty First Nations are collective and we share our overlapping territories. This means that consultation must recognize our First Nations as having constitutionally protected rights and that we must be in agreement as to how this type of development may or may not occur.

Chief Day justifies this position by saying "Our watershed territory drains into the Lake Huron basin and uranium mining has the potential of affecting a number of communities in the Treaty Territory. I cannot or will not be the sole decision maker in this process; I rely on my fellow leaders to help make any decisions on this matter - that's the spirit and intent of our Treaty."

Serpent River First Nation is a signatory of the Robinson Huron Treaty of 1850. Constitutionally protected Aboriginal and treaty rights are entrenched in the relationship between Anishnabek people and the Crown. This relationship is the legal foundation for a Nation-to- Nation dialogue that is continually being raised by First Nations across Canada on issues of resource development in all natural resource-based sectors. Chief Day says that "governments in many jurisdictions across this country are now getting the message spelled out in recent court rulings, that the duty to consult is the floor and not the ceiling. It's time to get serious about meaningful and timely response to this legal duty. Governments, both Crown and First Nations alike must protect and promote the integrity of Canada's Constitution."

The Chief says that they are not against development but that any development or economic activity must not have negative impacts as seen in historical uranium mining in the territory between the 1950's through to the nineties when the last uranium mine closed in Elliot Lake, Ontario.

Serpent River First Nation is clear in its call to Ontario "It is imperative that Ontario respond now because in the eyes of many, it's irresponsible of the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines to drag its feet on this matter any longer." says Chief Isadore Day.


For more information contact Chief Isadore Day at 705-844-2418 or

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