Last week, members and supporters of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (Big Trout Lake) Nation gathered at a Thunder Bay courthouse to witness the proceedings against Chief Donny Morris, councilor Sam McKay, and other community members after they were charged with being in contempt of court for “obstructing the consultation process” last October.
By the looks of things, the proceedings went about as good as we could have expected (though the deck sure does seem to be stacked against the People of Big Trout Lake)… KI Chief Donny Morris was on the stand for a total of 6 hours. Apparently he did such a good job that he ended up being the only person to take the stand. Everyone else adopted his testimony.
According to Anna Baggio, CPAWS Wildlands League’s Director of Conservation Land-Use Planning, who traveled to Thunder Bay to support KI in court,
The Chief made it clear his community opposed the drilling and that they had a moratorium in place since 2001. The Chief said his community mandate was to prevent Platinex from going to the site. KI’s position is, “No drilling. We don’t want our environment disturbed. Our hunting areas disturbed. It is our territory…”
When asked by the Platinex lawyer, “What would it take for you to permit Platinex to do some exploratory drilling?” the Chief said, “that’ll be for the membership and the next generation to decide”.
Chief Morris said that the teachings of the Elders made it clear they were to share the lands as a governing body. They were to have the same role as Ontario. Platinex tried to argue that KI had surrendered all their rights to the land years ago.
A poignant moment occurred in the proceedings when Chief Morris responded in Cree to Platinex’s lawyer about his understanding of the treaty his community had signed with Ontario. Even the judge was thrown a little. Chief Morris communicating in Cree to people who didn’t understand Cree was exactly what happened to them when the government entered into a treaty with them in English.
In her dispatch, Anna follows this up by pointing to the fact that “It’s time for Ontario to put a halt to all of this and withdraw all of KI’s lands from staking—to put the community mandated moratorium in place. We need a peaceful resolution now.”
Truer words have never been spoken–and I can only think to add that such a resolution cannot come from a courthouse, although Justice Smith certainly does an opportunity, even obligation to help bring one. We will see if he does some time in April.
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