SAULT STE. MARIE – Batchewana First Nation (BFN) Leadership gathered at the Courthouse steps with local supporters engaged in ceremony seeking resolution to the disappointing status of their logging trial.
Today was to be the culmination of the trial where Batchewana First Nation members faced a prosecution for logging on their own lands from charges, which arose in 2008. However, BFN’s day in court was cut short by the Crown lawyers attempt to withdraw the charges.
Both Ontario and Canada were put on notice by BFN after community members were charged as to the claim. BFN has been preparing for this day for the last eight years to finally establish in court that the First Nation had over 400 square miles of treaty lands taken unlawfully.
The First Nation has been awaiting the completion of the process in good faith. Years of hard work on behalf of BFN has provided a wealth of evidence to support their claim.
Today, rather than face a fair and just outcome, the crown chose the dishonourable act of maintaining the status quo. The trial will continue in the fall of 2016 at which time the Crown will make their formal plea for withdrawal.
It has been 8 long arduous years; not once has Ontario or Canada offered in a concrete format, or in good faith, to set up a structured negotiation to reach a resolution.
Chief Dean Sayers commented, “ We see this continuation as being sentenced to further poverty. BFN is pursuing our options and will garner input and direction from our People. Options include filing a statement of claim; continue issuing permits to log in our forest, and shutting the forest down if we can’t be there exercising our inherent jurisdiction. We will not endorse Ontario’s continued legislated theft of our logs and other natural resources. If our people are going to be kept from logging, so will everyone else”.
You may recall the recent decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Daniels where Justice Abella spoke of the importance and integrity that is the “honour of the crown” in dealings with aboriginal people. Despite what the Supreme Court says – today is a perfect example of the “dishonour of the crown”. Throughout the last eight years the Province of Ontario Ministry of Natural Resource Prosecutors and those crowns in the Ontario Attorney General’s office in Toronto have frustrated the First Nation’s efforts to have their day in court.
This dishonour on the crown affects not only BFN, it affects the general public at large, tax payers in Ontario who unbeknownst to them have funded millions through their taxes for no less than 3 crown lawyers and sometimes up to 5 who worked to frustrate this process over the last 8 years. This dishonour contributes to continuing conflicts BFN makes every good faith attempt to obtain a remedy for what happened so many years ago.
BFN Leadership are united in the sentiment that this setback will not stop them until this wrong is justifiably fixed. In the days to come BFN will reflect on the ways in which they can force Ontario and Canada to remedy the wrongs of the past.
For more information/interview requests please contact Alex Syrette, BFN Communications Coordinator (705) 255-8407