For Immediate Release
Apr 20, 2017

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First Nation to intervene to protect traditional territory


Copper One’s proposed mine will degrade land and pollute the headwaters of the Ottawa River, say the Mitchikanibikok Inik

OTTAWA and QUÉBEC – Mitchikanibikok Inik First Nation is calling on the court to reject mining company’s lawsuit to open their unceded territory for forestry and mining exploration.

“The Mitchikanibikok Inik First Nation have a constitutional right to consultation and accommodation,” said Ecojustice lawyer, Joshua Ginsberg. “Copper One’s application is an attempt to force through a regulatory approval while ignoring the rights of the Mitchikanibikok Inik people. This community has said time and again that mining activity cannot happen in their territory. They deserve to see that ‘no’ respected.”

Copper One, a junior mining company, filed a mandamus application to force the Quebec government to grant it “deforestation permits” that will allow it to start mining exploration activities in the Mitchikanibikok Inik (also known as Algonquins of Barrière Lake) traditional territory.

Ecojustice lawyers, with help from lawyers from the Centre québécois du droit de l’environnement (CQDE), will be representing the Mitchikanibikok Inik as intervenors in Copper One’s proceeding against the Quebec government.

“We have said repeatedly that mining cannot occur in our territory. We will not sit idle and let Copper One, or any other mining company, come in and jeopardize our way of life. No means no,” said Norman Matchewan of the Mitchikanibikok Inik First Nation.

The ancestral territories of the Mitchikanibikok Inik encompass many sites of ecological, cultural and survival importance, including: Burial sites, ceremonial sites, heritage sites, and occupancy sites; habitat for bears, spawning fish, and bald eagles; and hunting grounds for moose, medicinal plant gathering and tree harvesting.

“The Centre québécois du droit de l’environnement is pleased to collaborate on a case which concerns both indigenous and environmental law which we believe is fundamentally fair.” said CQDE lawyer Marc Bishai.

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In 1991, the Mitchikanibikok Inik signed a trilateral agreement with the governments of Canada and Quebec to establish a system of sustainable development over 10,000 square kilometres of their unceded traditional territory. Negotiations regarding implementation are ongoing.

Since 2011, the Quebec government has enforced a moratorium on mining activity in the region, except for a brief period in 2016 when it was lifted — clearing the way for Copper One to proceed with mineral exploration. The government reinstated the moratorium in February 2017, but only until July.

Also available in French

For media inquiries

Joshua Ginsberg, director, lawyer | Ecojustice law clinic at the University of Ottawa
613 562 5800 ext. 3399, jginsberg@ecojustice.ca

Norman Matchewan | Mitchikanibikok Inik First Nation
819 441 8006, matchewann@gmail.com

Marc Bishai, lawyer| Centre Québécois du droit de l’environnement
514 991 9005, marc.bishai@cqde.org