Sol Mamakwa is defending the position of Grassy Narrows First Nation after Ontario approved nine mineral exploration permits in their territory – without the community's consent.

During Question Period at Queen’s Park on November 22, Mamakwa, who serves as Kiiwetinoong’s MPP and the NDP’s Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Critic, offered his take on the evolving situation.

“Grassy Narrows has invited Ontario to the table to resolve land protection issues eight times since this government was elected. Ontario has yet to answer. This is so disrespectful.”

''Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa

Mamakwa explains that Grassy Narrows First Nation Chief Randy Fobister recently traveled to Toronto to meet with Minister of Indigenous Affairs, Minister of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry and Kenora-Rainy River MPP, Greg Rickford, on the issue.

However, Mamakwa says Fobister was upset by the meeting, as the Minister refused to answer the Chief’s questions since the mining issue is currently before the courts.

“Our government takes the challenges at Grassy Narrows very seriously. We’re committed to the success of all First Nations, especially those in the Grassy Narrows area,” said Peterborough-Kawartha MPP and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Indigenous Affairs, Dave Smith, during Question Period at Queen’s Park.

“We will continue to work [together] to establish a positive relationship and promote reconciliation to ensure the community is appropriately consulted with as we moved forward. But as this issue is before the courts, I’m afraid I’m not able to answer any further,” said Smith.

“Over 100s of years, those are the types of answers we’ve been hearing. To hide behind courts and to fight First Nations behind courts is very colonial,” responded Mamakwa.

Mamakwa says the community wants to give the land a chance to heal, after the damage that’s been done to the area through a legacy of mercury contamination in the English-Wabigoon River system, as well as clear-cut logging in the area.

“When the government issues mining permits behind our backs, that’s not reconciliation, that’s destruction. The government isn’t working with us, they are working against us,” stated Chief Fobister.

“They need to stop logging and mining so the land can heal. Ontario continues to behave like a colonizer, who believes that they can force anything they want on our people and on our land.”

In 2018, Grassy Narrows enacted a land declaration and ban on industrial or mining activities in their territory. These nine new mining permits would be in violation of that ban.

"I appreciated the opportunity to meet with Asubpeeschoseewagong First Nation Chief Fobister and Councillor Pahpasay to discuss several important topics including community wellness and areas of mutual interest. As a result of ongoing legal proceedings launched by the community, we were unable to discuss mining permits in the region. This matter is now before the courts so it would be inappropriate to comment further," adds Rickford.