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Cat Lake First Nation shows opposition to premier and proposed gold mine

Cat Lake button art makes a cheeky reference to a 2018 election campaign utterance.
Art on a button depicts Doug Ford driving a bulldozer.

CAT LAKE FIRST NATION — A remote First Nation northeast of Red Lake is imploring Premier Doug Ford to respect their right to refuse a gold mine on their land. And their chief has a colourful pin to drive home the point.

The pin sports a depiction, created by Indigenous Thunder Bay-based artist Deanna Therriault, of Ford behind the wheel of a bulldozer while disapproving lynxes glare at him. It’s a cheeky reference to Ford’s pledge during the 2018 Ontario general election campaign that he personally would “hop on a bulldozer” if that’s what it takes to get a mining road built.

Chief Russell Wesley wore the button Wednesday at the Chiefs of Ontario conference in Toronto, where he expressed concern over the Ford government’s support for a mining project on Cat Lake land that the First Nation opposes.

First Mining Gold Corporation touts its Springpole Gold Project as “one of the largest undeveloped gold projects in Ontario.”

Cat Lake First Nation opposes First Mining’s ambition to open a mine there — primarily out of concern for what would happen to lake trout in Springpole Lake if the company were allowed to mine near and under the lake, Wesley said Thursday in a phone interview from Toronto.

Other matters of concern include how a mine would affect the livelihood of a Cat Lake First Nation trapper and how it would impact moose hunting, he added.

“But the thing is the lake trout, and this is what really upsets the people, because they harvest the lake trout,” he said.

Wesley’s speech in Toronto referenced Cat Lake’s Sept. 19 Band Council Resolution reiterating a moratorium on mining exploration and related road construction within their territory.

The resolution was sent to Ford and some members of his cabinet, including Kenora–Rainy River MPP and Indigenous Affairs Minister Greg Rickford.

New Democrat MPP Sol Mamakwa, whose Kiiwetinoong riding includes Cat Lake, issued a statement on Sept. 23 accusing the Ford PC government of running roughshod over the First Nation’s rights.

“Let’s be crystal clear,” Mamakwa’s statement declared. “First Nations have an indisputable right to self-determination and the fundamental principle of free, prior and informed consent.”

The necessity of free, prior and informed consent is recognized in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The province’s support of the Springpole project on Cat Lake land goes against the community’s wishes, Wesley said.

A motion in support of Cat Lake’s position carried Thursday at the chiefs’ conference.

Mike Stimpson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Mike Stimpson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

After working at newspapers across the Prairies, Mike found where he belongs when he moved to Northwestern Ontario.
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