Supporting the Mitchikanibikok Inik First Nation’s fight to protect their traditional territory

Mitchikanibikok Inik (Algonquins of Barriere Lake) v. Attorney General of Quebec (Government of Quebec and Minister of Energy and Natural Resources)
Photo by Cristian Bortes
Program area – Nature Status: In progress
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The ancestral territories of the Mitchikanibikok Inik First Nation encompass many sites of ecological, cultural and survival importance, including: Burial sites, ceremonial sites, heritage sites, and occupancy sites; habitat for bears, spawning fish, and bald eagles; and hunting grounds for moose, medicinal plant gathering and tree harvesting.

That’s why for years, the community has fought to keep mining off of their territory — including when junior mining company, Copper One attempted to push through deforestation permits to facilitate mining activities on their land.

Ecojustice lawyers, working with the Centre québécois du droit de l'environnement (CQDE), successfully represented the Mitchikanibikok Inik First Nation as interveners in Copper One’s proceeding against the Quebec government. But that wasn’t the end of the story for the community.

In 2017, Copper One and Quebec engaged in closed-door negotiations that resulted in the hand-over of the company’s mining claims to SOQUEM — a subsidiary of Ressources Québec — in exchange for $8 million. This was done without first consulting the Mitchikanibikok Inik community, as required by the Constitution Act. Since then, claims have continuously been renewed without consultation.

Ecojustice is challenging the constitutionality of certain sections of Quebec's Mining Act to ensure the Mitchikanibikok Inik First Nation is properly consulted about mining on their ancestral lands.

Quebec’s Mining Act uses the “free entry” system approach. This loophole allows mining claims to be registered without first consulting with Indigenous communities, as required under the Constitution Act which stipulates the government has a legal duty to consult and accommodate Indigenous peoples before making decisions that could impact their communities — this includes actions like granting companies project and permit approvals.

That’s why, on behalf of the Mitchikanibikok Inik First Nation, Ecojustice, in collaboration with CQDE, has filed a lawsuit that argues that Quebec’s Mining Act is unconstitutional. The lawsuit seeks to ensure that mineral claims on their traditional territory are only obtained after due consultation.

A win in this case will see Quebec’s Mining Act amended to ensure consultation takes place. A win would also prevent and remove all mineral claims on Mitchikanibikok Inik First Nation territory.

Key developments

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