Now Is The Time To Protect Earth’s Wetlands

Happily the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal has ruled that the provincial government’s legal manoeuvres are illegal and needs to stop, writes

Nick Welch, from Fort Albany First Nation, is standing up for the health and welfare of his people. The Grand Chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, Welch has been joined by fellow Fort Albany First Nation members Cherilyn Wilson and Buckland Hardar in the Rainbow Justice campaign.

The Rainbow Justice campaign is about protecting the health of our First Nations people by ensuring safety at and around Grassy Narrows and Brown Bear lakes.

Bill 24: Further abuse of Indigenous people

Bill 24: The Northern Resources Deal Act of 2016 introduced unnecessary mining regulations and red tape for First Nations. The bill was passed in December 2016 and provided unprecedented powers for the Minister of Indian Affairs (IAR) to override treaty land and water rights.

The legislation expanded IARs functions with emergency powers to thwart the right of communities to determine how the traditional lands are used in accordance with treaty and related historical rights. These powers include prohibition of protesting against or causing disturbance on these lands, seizure of protest banners and devices, seizure of event production, and impounding belongings. This is unnecessary and, in my opinion, a grave threat to our lives and health.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau can support our rights

There is a veritable army of First Nations with many more citizens who still demonstrate and protest against this interference with our rights.

Grassy Narrows and Brown Bear were named Canada’s Most Endangered Wetlands in 2014 and 2017, but the federal government continues to support illegal and disrespectful mining in these lakes and at the proposed Pebble Mine.

Grassy Narrows/Brown Bear remained on the Prime Minister’s Species at Risk List (SAR) until 2017, the latest designation and recognition of conservation and protection of this ecological community. This SIS listing puts Treaty 6 partners at risk of infringing and violating their treaty land rights to share in resource development.

Watersheds and the overall quality of life of First Nations people depend on clean water. To contaminate a community or community resource with silt is literally life destroying. This is not a marginal issue, it is the very core of who we are as Canadians.

Watersheds are important part of our being. They provide great recreational opportunities, clean air, water and are important to our economic growth, food security and quality of life. We believe we have as a First Nation and as First Nations people the right to work together, locally and nationally, to get the commons back for the benefit of all, together with our partners. This includes protecting our environment to allow access to the land and water, but also to manage for sustainable development.

Our right to economic and social diversity and connectivity is valuable. There is much misunderstanding and lack of education on the issues in and around Grassy Narrows and Brown Bear, and misrepresentation by the mining industry, mainstream media and public.

We must teach the Truth and Reconciliation commission that racism is a significant human rights issue and a root cause of historic injustices to First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples that affect health, well-being and culture, family life, language, employment, housing, education, policing, treaty rights, the economy, education and human rights.

Grassy Narrows and Brown Bear shouldn’t be denigrated and abused as strip mines.

Imagine what could happen to our children if they were deprived of their land and water for too long. Our children and our grandchildren’s health and well-being depends on Grassy Narrows and Brown Bear remaining a healthy, unaltered environment.

I ask my fellow Canadians, please do your bit to help First Nations in stopping these injustice and oppressing of our way of life: Oppose these unnecessary laws in every way possible, and support our children’s and grandchildren’s right to clean water and healthy lands.

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