Current Problems

Treaties and Land Claims

Ontario First Nations want a year-long pause on mining claims. Will the Ford government listen?

January 24, 2024

Thousands of online mining claims are being made on the territories of First Nations without their consent — and often they aren’t even told about it

Alex Moonias of Neskantaga First Nation alongside members of Asubpeeschoseewagong Anishinabek (Grassy Narrows), Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (Big Trout Lake), Wapekeka, Neskantaga and Muskrat Dam First Nations in September 2023. As the Land Defence Alliance, the group was calling on the Doug Ford government to address a flood of mining claims on their territories. 

Photo: Chris Young / The Canadian Press

The Narwhal: the Canadian Press – The notices usually pour in on Sunday.

One by one, they pile up in the email inbox of Cat Lake First Nation Chief Russell Wesley, each one about a mining claim someone has staked on his community’s territory. Sometimes, he receives up to 20 in a single day.

As the nation’s main point of contact for mining companies, ideally he’d be able to review them — make sure that if prospectors were to come in and start searching for minerals on the sites, the claims wouldn’t overlap with sites that are culturally important to Cat Lake or used by members of the remote, fly-in community in northwestern Ontario for hunting or gathering medicines. But most of the time, there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Especially when the nation, also known as Bizhiw-zaaga’iganiing Nitam Anishinaabeg, is also coping with multiple emergencies at once, like mental health crises, a housing shortage and unseasonably warm temperatures that have kept the community’s winter road from opening to bring in essential goods.

“There could be hundreds of reasons why I couldn’t review all of those emails,” Wesley told The Narwhal.

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