(Ottawa, October 1, 2013) Today, First Nations from across Quebec are staking out positions on the Parti Quebecois’ proposed reforms to the Quebec Mining Act. Bill 43 is the third attempt to revise the act in recent years. Like its predecessors, Bill 43 includes important improvements for environmental management and municipal authority, but lacks any serious attempt to reconcile the rights given to mineral claim holders with the constitutional rights of Aboriginal peoples. First Nation leaders are in Quebec City making submissions to the legislative committee tasked with finalizing the bill before it goes back to the National Assembly. They are arguing for substantive changes to the status quo.
“Quebec’s current Mining Act is an anachronism that is out of step with modern values and doesn’t meet standards for the protection of Aboriginal rights and title,” says MiningWatch Canada spokesperson Ramsey Hart.
The standards Quebec needs to meet include a growing body of Canadian case law, including the recent Ross River Dena decision of the Yukon Court of Appeal as well as international standards such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The standard is very clearly for early and meaningful consultation and accommodation in order to obtain the consent of Aboriginal peoples. This consent should be acquired before a third party can establish an interest on the traditional territory and again before activities on the ground begin.
In its own submission, MiningWatch urges the Quebec government to incorporate the substantive changes demanded by the First Nations. These include:
- Consultation and accommodation (beyond notification) through the full mining sequence and before claim staking occurs.
- The ability to put lands deemed inappropriate for mineral development off limits to mineral staking.
- Revenue sharing for mines operating in the traditional territories of First Nations.
Should Quebec fail to bring the Mining Act into compliance with existing standards for the protection of Aboriginal rights and title, it will leave the province open to an escalation of conflicts – on the land and in the courtroom. “The First Nations we have worked with are fed up with Quebec’s backward and illegal approach to consultation and accommodation. They rightly insist on jointly developing a new path forward to reduce conflicts with the industry and ensure that claim staking and exploration activities do not infringe on their Aboriginal rights and title,” concluded Hart.