“I just don’t understand what you’re doing,” Ojibwa Chief Ray Elder warned Premier Doug Ford in January. “You are being very bad faith.”
According to an affidavit filed by Elder, he visited the mining companies last June, where he said he was told the issue had been resolved, that they would pay for and destroy the required abutments.
Ford’s office, which initially denied the conversations, now says he was told the permit would be reserved for further negotiations.
“The mayor’s office was never notified by anybody that there was an issue of how the permits should be issued,” Ford spokesman Simon Jefferies said. “This is a serious matter where a legitimate citizen stands to lose his way of life.”
The permits are important to First Nations, as they provide a way to access aboriginal lands that belong to them, subject to respect for treaty rights.
According to Ontario Minister of Economic Development Brad Duguid, however, the permits have been inactive since 1995 and work has already begun on them.
“Mining companies are required to go through a number of rules that have been put in place by the government,” Duguid said. “We have everything in place now to allow for the granting of those permits.”
On 1 January, the same day Mark Bryan, president of Resources Ontario, visited Elder and verbally agreed to purchase the properties for the abutments, the chair of the Heritage Mines Review Panel gave the final approval.
To break a modern-day logjam on mining at a time when traditional lands of First Nations are losing value as mining occurs on nearby Crown land, Duguid created the Heritage Mine Advisory Group, which includes representatives from all the provincial and territorial governments.
“You [First Nations] are in the process of selling properties to mining companies,” Robinson said to Bryan. “This is going to be impossible if the permits are not issued.”
A month later, that panel reconvened and quietly ruled on February 5 that the cabinet documents were incomplete and that the permits were in fact available for the mines to take advantage of.
“It’s like someone in corporate is saying, ‘Oh no, I’m sorry the CEO has made an error in this meeting,’” said Stephen Harrigan, president of Earth First! UK, which has been fighting the pits since 1997. “This is [bull].”
Robinson’s petition is still to be heard on April 10th.