The newly established Indigenous Sovereignty and Protected Area will make the area off limits to industrial logging and most extractive industries
TORONTO — Today, Grassy Narrows chief and council — alongside Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde — released a Land Declaration announcing the creation of an Indigenous Sovereignty and Protected Area in Grassy Narrows. The David Suzuki Foundation was one of several organizations that, also today, released a statement in support of the Land Declaration.
“This Indigenous Sovereignty and Protected Area will advance healing of the lands and people in efforts to recover from the community’s toxic mercury legacy,” David Suzuki Foundation CEO Steve Cornish said in the statement. “We stand with Grassy Narrows in calling on the Ontario government to recognize the Land Declaration as part of the path to reconciliation.”
Full text of the Foundation’s statement is below.
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Statement of support for Grassy Narrows Indigenous Sovereignty and Protected Area
The David Suzuki Foundation supports Grassy Narrows’ Land Declaration, issued today, which claims their traditional territory as an Indigenous Sovereignty and Protected Area that is off limits to industrial logging and most extractive industries.
We stand with Grassy Narrows in calling on the Ontario government to recognize the Land Declaration as part of the path to reconciliation.
The David Suzuki Foundation believes this Indigenous Sovereignty and Protected Area will advance healing of the lands and people in efforts to recover from the community’s toxic mercury legacy.
CEO, David Suzuki Foundation
The Ontario government allowed a pulp and paper company to dump 10 tonnes of mercury into the Wabigoon River in northwestern Ontario between 1962 and 1969. As a result of the poison in the watershed, the people of Grassy Narrows suffered from mercury poisoning, also called Minimata disease, and the collapse of their livelihoods.
The people of Grassy Narrows have long expressed that they did not support clearcut logging within their traditional territory. In January 2007, they declared a moratorium on industrial activity within their Indigenous homeland. In September 2015, in a referendum conducted with support from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, the community voted against allowing logging by outsiders in their traditional territory, and against supplying industrial mills.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, of which Canada is a signatory, states in Article 25, “Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources to uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this regard.” The declaration also commits the Canadian government to obtaining the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous Peoples before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them. For reconciliation to become a reality in Canada, all Indigenous Peoples must be secure in their right to a healthy environment and access to clean, safe drinking water and sanitation.