(Ottawa) Earlier today representatives of the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) met with a delegation of Indigenous people from the Island of Kanaky-New Caledonia in the South Pacific. The two groups convened the meeting to discuss strategies and share experiences in the promotion and protection of their rights as Indigenous Peoples.
The Canadian mining giant, Inco, is currently seeking approval to develop several large open-pit mines on the Island. Each of these projects is to be developed in environmentally sensitive areas adjacent to the world’s second largest coral reef. These areas are critical to the Kanak peoples’ economy and culture. The Kanak delegation is touring Canada meeting with Aboriginal organizations to see how these issues have been addressed in this country.
High Chief Roch Wamytan said: “Inco, who is proposing this project, is essentially taking the colonial approach still used by the Government of France, who continues to maintain control over our Island today.” He added that “the Kanak people make up 47% of population in south New Caledonia and yet we have little say in this project, even if it threatens our land and people.”
The Cree representatives explained the strategies they have used in the past 30 years to have their Aboriginal and Treaty rights respected. These strategies involve international lobbying and public relations efforts, litigation, environmental review processes and direct action. The representatives from the Grand Council also pledged to assist and support the Kanak people any way that they can.
Philip Awashish, spokesperson for the Grand Council, noted: “the experience of our two nations, the denial of our rights, of our culture and traditions by governments and corporate interests, parallel each other. And so our mutual support is only natural.”
The Kanak delegation has also met with National Chief Matthew Coon Come, representatives of the Innu Nation, Makivik and representatives of the Canadian Government. They intend to hold a press conference tomorrow in Ottawa.
For more information please contact:
- Romeo Saganash (418) 564-1598
- Jacques Boengkih (613) 261-9612