OTTAWA — Chief Casey Ratt and representatives from Ecojustice and the Centre québécois du droit de l’environnement (CQDE) issued the following statement in response to mining company, Copper One withdrawing its claims in the ancestral territories of the Mitchikanibikok Inik First Nation:
Chief Casey Ratt said:
“We fought to drive Copper One and its mining out of our ancestral territory — an area that covers La Verendrye Wildlife Reserve — and we won. But we know the fight is not over yet. We will continue to work to ensure the magnificent wilderness in our ancestral territories, a space twice the size of Prince Edward Island, is declared off limits to mining, indefinitely.”
Marc Bishai, lawyer with CQDE said:
“The Centre québécois du droit de l’environnement is pleased that Copper One has given up its mining claims in the Mitchikanibikok Inik’s traditional territory.”
Amir Attaran, lawyer with Ecojustice’s law clinic at the University of Ottawa said:
“The imminent threat of mining by Copper One may be gone but the fact remains that these permits now rest in the hands of Quebec’s mining Crown Corporation, the Société québécoise d’exploration minière (SOQUEM).
“In a back alley deal, Copper One and Quebec came to an agreement that Copper One would hand over its mining claims to SOQUEM — which is to say Quebec itself — in exchange for $8 million. In doing so, Quebec failed to fulfill its constitutional duty to consult and accommodate our client, the Mitchikanibikok Inik First Nation. We will be back in court to deal with this offensive and disrespectful breach of Constitutional law toward Aboriginal people.
“We have no doubt that the settlement reached with Copper One behind the backs of the Mitchikanibikok Inik is invalid and will argue so to the court.”
Ecojustice lawyers, with help from lawyers from CQDE, represented the Mitchikanibikok Inik as intervenors in Copper One’s proceeding against the Quebec government.
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.