First Nations accuse Canadian government of ‘trickery’

A Canadian province’s cabinet has been accused of “trickery and bad faith” by the indigenous government of one of Canada’s largest First Nations as part of a dispute over the fate of an iron ore mine.

The Ontario government suspended permits for the Lavergne iron mine in the Upper Kootenay region of the province last December, without offering any reason.

The project had been on hold since 2013 and development had been halted by a court order issued against the Mining Corporation of Ontario, a division of BC Iron, in 2013.

The dispute is now being explored in court by the Beaver First Nation.

Beaver First Nation culture chief Jimi Auwahinard describes the first decision to grant the mine development permits as “trickery”.

“We are talking about an age-old historical mistake that’s led to the land to be abused and taken over from the treaty terms and jurisdiction,” he told Al Jazeera.

While the mine permits have been suspended, Canadian court decisions have extended the employment and environmental protection for the project.

The Beaver First Nation say they have sent the province more than 40,000 requests for information about the project, but they have received only a handful of copies.

“We feel there is a sweetheart deal for Ontario that should not be fair, it should not be right and we are having to fight back,” said Aaiiwahinard.

If the project does go ahead, it will be the second-largest iron ore mine in the world in terms of annual production.

But the Beaver First Nation say the project will impact the hardwood pine forest around the mine and encroach on their hunting grounds for bears, elk and caribou.

The case in the Canadian courts will be heard this month and the Ontario government have said the mine will “not proceed unless it complies with the terms of the first licensing agreement and clear regulatory requirements”.

Mining is a contentious subject in Canada and aboriginal communities are at the heart of the controversy.

Since 1984, over $20bn worth of mining licences and permits have been cancelled or found to be invalid.

Al Jazeera asked Aaiiwahinard if this latest case was about corporate greed or “dividends” for the mining industry.

“Yes, it’s corporate greed. They came out in full force with all these bad deeds, money and ego,” he said.

“They need the money and nothing can stop them now. They are desperate, desperate, desperate.”

An expanded mine expansion will also impact the environment and First Nations groups worry it will affect their hunting territories and historic sites.

“It’s a race between the clock and nature because if you lose the resources, you lose the hunting grounds. If you lose the hunting grounds, you lose your traditions,” said Aaiiwahinard.

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