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Chilean Indigenous representatives meet with Matawa Chiefs
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20 August 2012
Thunder Bay, Ontario (PRESS RELEASE) - A delegation of Government officials and Indigenous Peoples from Chile met with Matawa First Nations Chiefs today [20 August] to exchange information and discuss issues surrounding sustainable mining in Aboriginal territories.
It was a very emotional moment for Chilean visitors and Matawa Chiefs and staff when the opening drum ceremony finished. One member of the Chilean delegation began to cry, stating that she didn't know what she was feeling. Another commented on how moving the drum was and what a connection it must be to the earth.
'I visited the Maori in New Zealand earlier this year and I think I know how they feel,' said Chief Johnny Yellowhead of Nibinimik First Nation, 'I felt overwhelmed meeting the other keepers of Mother Earth when I first met with the Maori That is what we are, the keepers of Mother Earth, and when we meet, it is significant. The Maori's came to visit our Chiefs earlier this month at our AGM in Webiquie. We have a lot to learn from each other's experiences.'
'It is amazing how much our First Nations have in common with other Indigenous Peoples around the world. They are dealing with similar issues in their territories, even with some of the same mining companies that we have here in Northern and Northwestern Ontario , including Goldcorp Inc. and Barrick Gold Corporation. It helps to share information and strategies,' said Chief Harry Papah of Eabametoong First Nation.
'The Chilean visitors have had similar issues with consultation, accommodation and consent as we have, and they have environmental concerns about their lands too. I am glad we are having this meeting and also the meeting earlier this month with the Maori. Industry and governments continue to move ahead in our territories without appropriate consultation and accommodation or consent. The more we meet with other Indigenous Peoples, the less we feel alone, and the more empowered we feel. I think Indigenous Peoples around the world are coming together in a global movement to exercise our rights according to the United Nations Charter. It can only make us stronger. We feel the bond of our connection to the land and of our cultures,' said Chief Roger Wesley of Constance Lake First Nation.
The meeting was scheduled after a request was made earlier this month from an international consultant representing the Chilean Government officials and the Indigenous delegation. During their visit to Canada, the Chilean representatives will attend various meetings in parts of the country, and tour mining operations.
Yesterday in Toronto, the Chileans met with the National Resources Canada Minerals and Metals Sector (MMS) to discuss technical and social sustainability, sustainable intervention models, and public and private collaboration tools and agreements with the First Nations.
On Wednesday, following their Matawa meeting, they will travel to Marathon to study the Environmental Management Systems and Sustainability Programs of the Hemlo Gold Mine. They will also meet with the Ojibways of the Pic River, and the community of Pic Mobert to share experiences about the Hemlo Gold Mine Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and the Cooperation Agreement.
The indigenous population of Chile numbers approximately 700,000 people.
• The Mapuche are the majority indigenous population and reside mostly in the southern regions of Chile and parts of Argentina.
• The other recognized indigenous tribes are the: Diaguatas, Atacameño, Aymara, Colla, Kawashkar, Quechua, Rapa Nui, and Yagán peoples who reside in various pockets of the country in smaller clusters and villages.
Current Mining Projects, Issues and Concerns:
There are numerous mining projects in Chile, some located on Indigenous territories and ancestral lands. This is a major point of contention between the Chilean Government and the Indigenous Tribes.
To date, there are numerous companies conducting mining operations within Chile. Goldcorp Inc. had begun construction on a new copper and gold project earlier this year, but work has recently been suspended following a Chilean Supreme Court order filed by the indigenous population citing lack of consultation.
In September of 2008, after nearly two decades of struggles, the Chilean government ratified Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO 169), which guaranteed additional rights to the indigenous peoples living in Chile. In particular, ILO 169 supports the rights to consultation, property, and self-determination. The law officially went into effect in September of 2009, and has only now begun being litigated in the courts. Despite the victory ILO 169 represents for indigenous rights, in reality, many conflicts and fights remain to be had between the Chilean government and the indigenous peoples living within its borders.
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