Conflict Zone: Lake Abitibi & Solid Gold
Conflict at Lake Abitibi – from the perspective of ‘Resource Rulers’
Definition of ‘conflict zone’
When a Chief publicly declares in the media that: “People like Solid Gold shouldn’t be doing any more exploration. Mr. Stretch (the president) should be removed from all mining works on our territory.” (Sudbury Star Nov 08 2012) it is a textbook definition of serious corporate-native conflict – as analyzed in several other scenarios in ‘Resource Rulers’. The Chief was responding to an alleged general lack of education on native rights that coloured the company’s dialogue with the community. The main event was a company presentation at an industry convention where the President may well have gone overboard with disparaging remarks vis-à-vis Wahgoshig First Nation (Temagami region Ontario).
Duty to consult
The legal issue as to whether Solid Gold Resources has a duty to consult (re crown delegated /procedural issues) is now going to be decided in a future court action involving these same parties. However the conflict is also being waged in the court of public opinion; given that throughout 2012 the company kept up a public campaign designed to put a cloud over the Chief and the Wahgoshig First Nation in terms of how fair they’ve been in their dealings towards Solid Gold.
Court of Public Opinion
Because the matter is before the courts, the commentary that follows will confine itself to the tensions generated by the public messaging as the legal process heads to appeal. Since that ruling could well become the definitive clarification on the duty to consult in Ontario; it’s worth tracking the actual words of the protagonists in the court of public opinion – making it the primary conflict zone.
Lake Abitibi & Solid Gold Soundbites:
Dec 08 2011 – company press release: Solid Gold is vigorously defending its legal rights to conduct exploration on the property without interruption.
Dec 11 2011 – native press release: Solid Gold refuses to cease its drilling operations and refuses to fund any studies that would locate burial sites before drilling takes place.
Jan 06 2012 – “I think it’s virtually impossible to do exploration now unless you pay the First Nations.” (President in Timmins Daily Press)
March 07 2012 – “They didn’t understand first nation’s concerns … meanwhile, these guys kept on drilling, saying, ‘We’ve got the right to drill, and you can’t stop me.” Chief in Globe & Mail)
March 28 2012 – “It’s not my obligation to go find arrowheads for those people, period.” (President in Globe & Mail)
July 18 2012 – company press release: Worse, this has effectively handed First Nations veto over Crown land and the ability to make unlawful demands.
Sept 17 2012 – “We decided to take a page from the First Nations’ playbook and speak out. … I think the other half of Canada has to start standing up for its own rights too because we’ve been taking it on the chin and allowing First Nations to interrupt commerce in this country”. (President in northernontariobusiness.com)
Oct 23 2012 – company press release: “These rules result in a total transfer of all Natural Resources to the control of hostile third party governments. It is my opinion that Canadians must do everything possible to stop this ill-conceived race-based initiative.” (President quoted)
Nov 06: 2012: president presenting at industry conference says: “It is every man for himself against 133 hostile third party governments across the country” (quoted in Batchewana press release dated Nov 09 – BFN attended the industry conference.)
Nov 07 2012 -Nishnawbe Aski Nation press release: “This guy has no intention of working with First Nations people.” (Chief quoted)
Nov 08 2012 – “People like Solid Gold shouldn’t be doing any more exploration. Mr. Stretch should be removed from all mining works on our territory.” (Chief in Sudbury Star) “(Our community has been) long working beside industry; but these are nasty, racial things and issues and we’re fed up with it.” (Chief on Sudbury Star video)
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Nov 09 2012 – “The First Nations use the proposition that they require consultation and accommodation. That means ‘get over here, get consent and then pay me’. That’s what it means. You can make all kinds of legal arguments about it, but that’s what it means. … As far as I can see, if anybody is going to do any paying, it’s going to be the Crown, not me personally …The fact is, if mining companies are suddenly forced by the Crown to serve a second master other than the Crown, all Canadians have a great big problem here.” (President in Sudbury Star)
(to be continued)