By Christine Beevis

An Ontario Supreme Court decision may have set an important precedent concerning the empowerment of First Nations communities across the province. In the last issue of ON Nature, we reported that Platinex, one of the companies the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation blocked from mining exploration in the Big Trout Lake area, had sued the KI community for $10 billion and requested a ban on protests expressing the community’s position. KI responded by suing Platinex for $10 billion and requesting a moratorium on exploration within its traditional territory, claiming that Ontario’s Mining Act was unconstitutional for not taking First Nations communities’ concerns into account.

Last April, the Ontario Supreme Court granted KI an injunction, stating that the parties must now return to the discussion table and devise a proper consultation process. “This ruling confirms that mineral exploration companies must tread very carefully when seeking to explore within the traditional territories of First Nations,” says Wendy Francis, Ontario Nature’s director of conservation and science.

KI is one of nine First Nations c o m munities that have called on the provincial government to enact a moratorium on mineral exploration and development in their territories until comprehensive land-use planning that protects traditional cultural, social and ecological interests is in place – a demand that Ontario Nature supports. If the court deems Ontario’s Mining Act to be unconstitutional, adds Francis, “mineral exploration and development across the province could be shut down and the entire process will need to be revised.”