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Quebec’s new Mining Act has First Nations warning of legal challenge

Innu chief Gilbert Dominique

JACQUES BOISSINOT/THE CANADIAN PRESS

First Nations are threatening to challenge Quebec's new Mining Act in court after the government cut short debate to force passage of the bill.

Innu Chief Gilbert Dominique, a spokesperson for the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, warned Monday that any new mining project on aboriginal land would be blocked if it failed to meet the approval of native communities.

"This bill does not correspond to our ancestral rights," Mr. Dominique said. "We want a veto right on all projects that have a devastating impact on our land."

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Under current law, mining companies aren't required to consult with communities before a project is undertaken on native land.

The new mining bill proposes to consult native communities "if the circumstances warrant" and to draft a consultation policy regarding a mining project prior to beginning operations on native land. However, the Quebec First Nations say consultations should begin the moment a mining claim on their land is registered and before exploration operations.

"Quebec would be one of the only jurisdictions in Canada in this position," Chief Dominique said.

"If need be we will go before the courts to have our rights recognized and based on past court rulings we are confident of winning our case."

The Liberals and Québec Solidaire tabled an amendment that would have given native communities more power over the consultation process. However, the proposal was defeated by the Parti Québécois minority government with the support of the Coalition Avenir Québec.

The PQ and the CAQ struck a deal to table a revised mining bill last Thursday on the eve of the last day of the fall session. The two parties agreed on the weekend to reconvene the National Assembly for a special one-day session on Monday where both parties voted to impose closure, a procedural manoeuvre that limits debate to quickly adopt a bill.

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About the Author
Quebec City political correspondent

Rhéal Séguin is a journalist and political scientist. Born and educated in southern Ontario, he completed his undergraduate degree in political science at York University and a master's degree in political science at the Université du Québec à Montréal.Rhéal has practised journalism since 1978, first with Radio-Canada in radio and television and then with CBC Radio. More

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