FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 12, 2003Chiefs Call on the Ontario Government to Address Grassy Narrows Concerns
(AROLAND, ON) In response to a call to action, Aroland, Hornepayne, Moose Cree, Constance Lake, Cat Lake, and Mishkeegogamang First Nations in northern Ontario have joined together in their support of the Grassy Narrows First Nation, who have been blocking a forest access road north of Kenora since December 3, 2002.
Aroland First Nation have erected a road blockade of their own for an indefinite periodof time to show their support and to raise awareness of the common issues shared by all First Nations impacted by forestry activities, Mishkeegogamang First Nation also plans to hand out information on their road, and others have sent in support letters, and others such as Hornepayne First Nation are considering erecting a blockade of their own at some later date.
Chiefs involved in this issue point out the direct relation between First Nation blockades and the Ontario government’s unwillingness to sit at the table to address fundamental issues such as Aboriginal and Treaty rights. A clear example of this was a December 2002 motion in parliament put forth by the NDP that pertained to revenue sharing with First Nations, that was quashed by the Conservative government.
They wish to also bring attention to fact that they feel the manner in which the Grassy Narrows issue is being dealt with is flawed. At present, district MNR officials have made statements of failed discussions with Grassy Narrows, but they neglect to add that the reasons behind this is because First Nations’ concerns can only be resolved at the Ministerial level. At this point, Chief Sonny Gagnon of the Aroland First Nation is, "calling for an unequivocal response from the Minister of Natural Resources and the Premier on how they plan to address Grassy Narrows First Nation, and to deal with the subsequent blockade Aroland First Nation has erected."
First Nation leaders are beginning to believe that it is "very cowardly of the Ontario government to allow the loggers and private business owners to be on the front line and be lead to believe that First Nations are against them." First Nations feel that it is time for the public to know that by not doing anything, their government is only perpetuating the problem. The issues of Aboriginal and Treaty rights, as entrenched in Canada’s Constitution, will not go away if ignored. Once and for all, some one in government has to find the courage to do the right thing and deal with Aboriginal people with respect and understanding.
Activities taking place on February 12, 2003 include a fundraising dinner and social in Grassy Narrows at the school auditorium at 6:00, tickets available at the door and all are welcome to attend.
Media Enquiries: Chief Sonny Gagnon, Aroland First Nation (807) 329-5970