Mining versus indigenous rights

Mining versus indigenous rights Canadian mining and exploration companies have certainly been busy recently. A mineral price frenzy has inflated stock values and allowed even junior exploration companies to expand both within and outside of Canada. Mexi

Canadian mining and exploration companies have certainly been busy recently. A mineral price frenzy has inflated stock values and allowed even junior exploration companies to expand both within and outside of Canada.

Mexico, Guatemala, Panama, Peru, Columbia and Bolivia are now staging grounds for Canadian mineral extraction knowledge.

There are winners and losers in this quest for mineral wealth. Indigenous peoples at the lowest end of the economic scale are suffering from Canadian corporate greed. It is a sad story of land displacement, callous environmental practices, cultural degradation, corrupt local governments, bribery, etc.

Canadian companies, including Goldcorp, Bear Creek Mining Corporation, lnmet Mining, Corriente Resources, First Majestic Silver Corporation and Backfire Exploration, have ongoing disputes with ethnic Aymara, Maya, Ngobe-Bugle, and Huichol indigenous groups. Native peoples who have lived on their lands and fostered a rich culture for centuries are treated like cattle, bullied and marginalized in the quest for gold.

Some disputes have been resolved through the courts, others through demonstrations and violence.

Unfortunately, there is a similar situation unfolding here in the Yukon.

The protection of the Peel has boiled down, after seven years of public consultations, to a dispute between the Yukon government (under the direct influence of the powerful mining-exploration lobby) and three Yukon First Nations.

A little over 100 years ago, native people lived a nomadic life, throughout the Peel watershed. The land claims settlement of the 1990s was in part to atone for the cultural displacement of natives from their traditional territory, which happened after the gold rush.

An important aspect of land claims was allowing native people full participation in land use planning. The three First Nations in the Peel have had their say on its future, including sizable concessions on the amount of the Peel to be protected. To have the Yukon Party present the chiefs with a non-negotiable position paper after seven years of joint work on the management plan is disgraceful, disrespectful and most probably illegal.

The fate of one of the crown jewels of Yukon’s wilderness will most likely have to be decided by a judge. The Yukon Party is acting like a corrupt Third World government, formulating policy behind closed doors and using silence as a campaign strategy. We all deserve better!

Chris Widrig

Whitehorse