The Multinational Monitor


I N D I G E N O U S   P E O P L E S

Canada: Government, Companies Violate Land Claims

Fred Plain is a chief of the Nishnawbe-Aski Nation in Ontario, Canada. What follows are excerpts from an address he gave during the Washington conference...

"Canada is a land of vast untapped resources. The discovery of these resources should have been enough to create a style of living in a country for every person regardless of who he looked like or what he looked like or what color his skin and pigmentation is.

There is enough wheat from Manitoba to Alberta to fill all the bread baskets in North America and the world. There is enough of the natural resources so that there never needs to be one hungry soul out there on the street, begging for dimes and nickels.

Yet my people, the NishnawbeAski, have not benefited from the resources. We are still living in substandard, sublevel conditions which would not to be withstood in normal society in the U.S. or Canada.

We have some 40-odd communities in the Nishnawbe land, stretching from James and Hudson Bay over to the Manitoba border, and south to the arctic water shed. We have tremendous resources: caribou, bear, every kind of fur bearing animal. Our rivers and lakes are still heavily populated with all kinds of fish that you find very delightful on your plate.

We have all of these things and yet we know that the province- of Ontario and the government of Canada are ready to go into a series of negotiations about who has control over the development of these untapped resources.

We have seen what the multinational corporations can do in devastating a land and its people. In 1975 the Trident pulp and paper mill of Ontario dumped mercury into the river system.

This has caused untold suffering to the aboriginal people of northwestern Ontario. Trident sought a license from the province of Ontario to cut black spruce out of a 19 thousand square mile piece of land. Once we heard that they were going to cut everything, we went to every conceivable place that was open to us: churches, universities, colleges, labor movements. We talked about the environment. We talked to everyone and said, `you can't let the Ontario government grant this type of clear cutting license.'

We also saw the drawing out of the gold in the Picklelake mine, right in the heart of our land. It was a boon while the resources lasted. They hired aboriginal people and trained them. Then when the resource was depleted, and the mine began to slacken off, it was these people who were the first to go. They had nothing when they came in to work for the gold mining industry; they have less now that they left. It was devastating to these communities. They were in a worse condition after the gold was depleted.

We will move to stop every effort to extract the gold and the silver, the nickle and the uranium, the oil and the gas from the lands of NishnawbeAski. We will continue our vow to stop every multinational corporation that attempts to clear our lands.

Our objective is to see a return of spiritual, social, cultural, political and economic independence. You cannot separate any portion of those , things that I have mentioned. You cannot divorce them one from another, you cannot divorce economics and culture one from another, they are bound inseparably. You destroy one, and you destroy the other."

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