Mines minister slammed for 'empty' remarks

KIIWETINOONG – The way Sol Mamakwa sees it, Ontario’s minister of mines sounded “colonial” and almost racist when he said the province’s North is “largely empty” and wide open for mineral exploration.

In a recent interview with NetNewsLedger, George Pirie described Northern Ontario as wide open for mineral exploration and mining.

Pirie said the North is “largely empty and begging for exploration drill holes.” He also said “the Indigenous Peoples support development.”

Mamakwa, MPP for the northern riding of Kiiwetinoong, told Newswatch the minister’s remarks were “very colonial.”

“It’s a comment that should not have been made,” Mamakwa said. “It’s almost to the point where it’s racist, what he said.

“When he talks about the empty lands, you know – these are our homelands, this is where we come from.

“This is where our ways of life come from. This is where the language comes from. Our identity is from those lands. They’re not empty.”

Pirie’s words echo the old concept of “terra nullius” (nobody’s land) that historically was used to justify colonialism, said Mamakwa, who is a member of Kingfisher Lake First Nation.

“These are our homelands, these are our traditional territories,” he said. “There’s history in those lands and they’re not begging to have holes drilled in them.

“So you cannot continue to talk that way . . . because we’ve been here for thousands of years and the government cannot just assume that we are not there.”

Newswatch reached out to Pirie’s office for comment.

Cat Lake First Nation Chief Russell Wesley, who won an injunction against a mining company in February, had his own pithy take on Pirie saying the North is “mostly empty”:

“Yeah, his lawn is empty too.”

Mike Stimpson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source