APTN National News
OTTAWA–A northern Ontario First Nation won an injunction Wednesday against a junior exploration company that ignored provincial requests it consult with the Algonquin community before drilling on its traditional territory.
An Ontario Superior Court judge sided with Wahgoshig First Nation and issued an injunction against Solid Gold Resources preventing the firm from doing any more work on the First Nation’s territory for 120 days.
Justice Carole Brown ordered the company and the province to begin a consultation process with the community during the injunction period.
Solid Gold president Darryl Stretch said he was disappointed with the decision.
“It’s a bad day for junior exploration companies operating in Canada,” said Stretch.
A community of about 250 people, Wahgoshig First Nations sits near Matheson, Ont., about 68 kilometres east of Timmins.
Brown found that the firm “made a concerted, willful effort not to consult” with the First Nation, despite provincial requests Solid Gold engage in talks with Wahgoshig in 2009 and in 2011.
The provincial government even offered to “facilitate the process” for Solid Gold, Brown wrote in the ruling.
When two hunters from Wahgoshig came across one of the company’s drilling crews in the spring of 2011, the workers refused to reveal the name of their employer.
When Wahgoshig band officials managed to find out which company was behind the drilling, they tried to initiate contact with Solid Gold to no avail.
The community says the territory Solid Gold targeted for drilling contains burial grounds and other sacred sites.
In 1995, Ontario’s Minister of Natural Resources determined that the Treaty 9 lands were an “area of cultural heritage potential.”
Solid Gold’s lawyer told the court the company believed it had “no legal responsibility or duty to consult” and if there was a duty, it was up to governments to execute.
The company said the Treaty 9 lands it was exploring were “surrendered to the Crown” and Wahgoshig had no “veto right over their activity.”
Solid Gold, however, also admitted that any “impact, damage or destruction” done to the Algonquin’s territory had already occurred.
Brown, however, concluded that allowing Solid Gold to continue its drilling work and ignoring the position of the Algonquins would send the wrong message.
“To refuse to enjoin Solid Gold from its drilling, in the circumstances of this case, will send a message that Aboriginal and treaty rights, including the rights to consultation and accommodation can be ignored by exploration companies, rendering the First Nations constitutionally recognized rights meaningless,” wrote Brown. “That would not be in the public interest. It is in the public interest to ensure that the Constitution is honoured and respected.”