When the community of Muskrat Dam in northern Ontario arrived at Agusk Lake for their spring goose hunt in late April this year, they discovered that exploration activities undertaken by De Beers Canada Inc. had driven away the geese. The elders of the community depend on the traditional community goose hunt for food.
Muskrat Dam has a moratorium on development in their traditional territory. In a letter to the Ministry of Mines (OMNDM), Chief Vernon Morris writes: “The lands in question are traditional lands essential to the maintenance of the distinctive culture of the Muskrat Dam First Nation, and the exploration program have seriously disrupted the Muskrat Dam First Nation’s spring goose hunt. There will be few geese for the community of Muskrat Dam this year.”
A press release addressing the situation issued by De Beers on May 10, claimed that the company had approached Muskrat Dam First Nation in March 2006 to request a meeting “to enquire about the community’s traditional land and pursuits as well as to discuss the early exploration work planned in the region for spring of 2006. This request was declined.”
Chief Morris categorically denies that De Beers made any contact with Muskrat Dam regarding this exploration plan. In a letter to De Beers Canada on May 15, he wrote: “That statement is incorrect. I am Chief of this community and I have no knowledge of such a meeting request.”
De Beers then proposed a meeting for May 18, but insisted that “no white advisors should be present”. Writes Chief Morris: ”We are disturbed that your officials would try to influence our choice of advisors at the meeting. Those suggestions are completely inappropriate. The idea that a powerful company could suggest who will or will not advise a First Nations brings to mind your corporation’s legacy in apartheid South Africa… We are requesting that your company apologize for making these inappropriate requests. The First Nation will determine who will and will not sit with them at any table.”
The Province has also not consulted with the First Nation about mining development. Writes Chief Morris: “The Supreme Court has clearly confirmed that the duty to consult cannot be delegated to mining and exploration companies.”