Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs leader Derek Nepinak warned today that not one mine will open without First Nations consent.
The Grand Chief led a protest outside a provincial mining conference this morning to oppose mines in provincial parks and on lands claimed as traditional for First Nations.
"We are living in a day and age where new leadership is emerging and we are not going to sit back," Nepinak said outside in -15 C temperatures.
As he has since Idle No More protests last winter, Nepinak struck a tone at odds with the conciliatory statements the public is used to hearing from indigenous leaders.
But he didn’t threaten any specific action either. Nepinak offered only general predictions and referred to actions that have already taken place in Manitoba, New Brunswick and other parts of Canada that have seen blockades rise against mining and resource extraction.
Mathias Colomb Chief Arlen Dumas and local supporters of the Idle No More movement and environmentalists joined the AMC leader in a show of support outside the RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg, where mining companies, provincial officials and some First Nations leaders were holding meetings.
One First Nations advisor at the conference said off the record protests like this widen the breach between corporate and indigenous interests.
What’s really needed is common ground, he said.
So far the province’s efforts aren’t enough to find any middle ground, Nepinak said. He reiterated the indigenous opposition to a mining advisory council Manitoba formed this summer, saying it pays lip service to the law but doesn’t serve First Nations or environmental concerns for future generations.
"For many generations Manitoba First Nations people have been denied equitable participation in resource development and forced to rely on federal government minimum services. This has resulted in severe poverty in our communities and compromised our water and land. Meanwhile, a handful of people at the top of the mining industry have generated great wealth for themselves and their closest friends," Nepinak said in a statement an hour later.
"By funding MAC, the government of Manitoba is putting its resources towards the continuing empowerment of that economic reality," Nepinak said, about the mining council.
The chief from Mathias Colomb, who faces a Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting injunction over a series of blockades, obliquely suggested more action is coming. "If everybody (else) doesn’t have to follow the rule of the law," he said in reference to mining interests at conflict with treaty law, "well, then none of us do," he said.
Eric Reder, Manitoba campaign director for the Wilderness Committee said he chose to stand with a picket to protest with the chiefs as a matter of principle to protect the environment. "It’s important to have allies. When I find research I share it with Arlen," he said.