Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Petition to Oppose Provincial Support for Plunder of Indigenous Land

So it seems that the province is continuing to allow resource extraction on land that the federal government has conceded is the unsurrendered territory of the Mohawk Nation at Tyendinaga. Negotiations are ongoing between the Mohawks and the feds as to how to address this situation -- or at least this is nominally the case, though the federal reputation for obfustication and delay is legendary in cases of this sort -- yet the provincial Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty continues to allow the quarry company to literally truck native land away and profit from it. There is a petition asking that the province end this complicity in the plunder of at least this particular parcel of indigenous land.

I don't have a lot of faith in the power of online petitions to change much of anything. Nonetheless, because the energy investment is next to nill, I'm always open to signing one if I agree with it, and I agree with this one. The well-known Canadian leftists who have signed include such big names as Naomi Klein, Buzz Hargrove, Maude Barlowe, Sherene Razack, Avi Lewis, Judy Rebick, and more.

Here is the text of the petition:

We, the undersigned, are writing to urge the Province of Ontario to end its complicity in the theft and plunder of First Nations land. Specifically, we ask that the Province stop providing licenses for resource extraction from lands currently in the Federal land claims negotiation process.

Recent proposed changes to the Federal Specific Claims land claim process have been proposed and may expedite negotiations on some claims. The large majority however, will not qualify for the "fast track." While claims languish for years and even decades at Federal
negotiating tables, Provincial licenses continue to be issued for the very land and resources that are being talked about.

In 1995, the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte near Belleville, Ontario filed a specific claim for land known as the Culbertson Land Tract. In 2003, the Federal Government acknowledged that the Culbertson Tract had never been surrendered and was in fact Mohawk Land. It was not until late 2006 that negotiations for the return of these lands to Mohawk use and control began in earnest. Despite acknowledgment by the Federal Government that the Mohawks are the rightful owners of the Culbertson Tract lands, the Ontario Ministry of the Natural Resources continues to issue a provincial license to an Ontario company called Thurlow Aggregates. The license allows Thurlow to operate a quarry and the removal of 100,000 tons of gravel annually - or roughly 300 truckloads a month.

Although the Mohawks have repeatedly attempted to have the quarry license revoked while negotiations are underway, the Province continues to maintain that it has no jurisdiction to consider the fact that the Aggregate is on land currently under Specific Claim negotiations.

Conveniently, the Federal government maintains that it cannot deal with ongoing resource extraction because licensing is a provincial issue.

The positioning of the Feds and Province on the Culbertson Tract Aggregate is emblematic of a deceitful and shameful game of "hot potato" played over First Nations land and resources year after year all over Ontario and indeed the country.

If a homeowner suffered a home break-in and robbery, we would not expect him to allow the rest of his belongings to be removed, while, for the next 10 years or so, the value of the items already stolen were determined. Why then are such scenarios permitted when it comes to the Land Claims process?

Not only does it indicate bad faith in land claims negotiations, it is a needless instigator of conflict and confrontation. When negotiations allow such basic unfairness to continue, it can come as no surprise when First Nations people create physical impediments to halt resource extraction, as the Tyendinaga Mohawks have done through their ongoing occupation of the Culbertson Tract Aggregate.

We implore the Provincial Government to revoke the quarry license on the Culbertson Land Tract and thereby commit to negotiating land claims issues in good faith and to honest governance for all Ontarians.

We also strongly encourage the Federal and Provincial Governments to engage in meaningful dialogue to end the exploitation of First Nation lands and resources. We are aggrieved to say that the status quo appears to be a twenty-first century perpetuation of a dismal history of policy that has done great injury to First Nations people and communities.

Please sign it!


Anonymous said...

Sorry to correct you but the resources (gravel) within the quarry being occupied by the men, women and children of Tyendinaga, is not "still being removed". Unless you count the occupiers allowing friends in to remove it after they took control of the gate.

Scott said...

Good point...I knew that but forgot. In any case, the point of the petition is the province's orientation towards all of it, and the province still regards the ongoing plunder of the land by settlers as completely acceptable.