Putting an End to Free Mining | 100 signatures on letter in support of Mitchikanibikok Inik First Nation's legal action

MiningWatch Canada – Coalition Québec meilleure mine

Montreal – One hundred (100) Indigenous people, academics, and representatives of civil society published an open letter today in support of the Mitchikanibikok Inik First Nation in its challenge to Quebec's Mining Act.

Today, the Mitchikanibikok Inik First Nation is asking the Superior Court of Montreal to ensure that Quebec's Mining Act finally respects its ancestral rights when granting mining claims. We support the Anishinabeg of the community of Barriere Lake in their fight to ensure the Quebec government stops favouring the mining industry at the expense of their constitutional, international, and inherent rights. 

The Mitchikanibikok Inik First Nation, represented by the Quebec Environmental Law Centre and Ecojustice, has been asking the Court since January 16, 2020 to invalidate Mining Act provisions that uphold the principle of free mining. Since the very first iteration of the Mining Act in 1864, free mining – or the principle of free access to mineral resources – refers to the right granted by the government to any mining company to explore a mining lot (mining claim) and eventually exploit it without requiring the prior approval of the occupants of the territories concerned, starting with Indigenous nations. 

We share the view of the Anishinabeg of Barriere Lake that the process of registering mining claims without consultation with just a few clicks on the Internet and a few dozen dollars directly contravenes the government’s obligation to consult and accommodate Indigenous peoples before any decision is made that might adversely affect their rights. 

We cannot accept the Quebec government’s claim to be extracting the greenest minerals on the planet while upholding a system that undermines the most fundamental principles of justice for Indigenous peoples. 
The Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, Maïté Blanchette Vézina, has announced that a bill to modernise the Mining Act will be tabled during the current session of parliament. Public consultations carried out by her ministry last spring concluded that the public is calling for a thorough review of the Mining Act to respect the rights of local populations facing mining activities. 

According to an August 2022 Léger opinion poll commissioned by the Coalition Québec meilleure mine, 78% of Québécois agree with "requiring the consent of local populations (municipalities and Indigenous peoples) before authorizing any mining activity on their territory.”

The honourable thing for the Minister to do would be to instruct her lawyers to cease the fight and publicly commit to amending the law so that no mining claim can be granted without the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples. The same principle should apply to municipalities. Reforming the Mining Act to respect the will of local populations is in the interest of everyone.

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