The Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC) has been illegally operating a mining megaproject in our traditional territory (Nitassinan) for decades, in blatant violation of our rights, without our consent, and without having paid a single penny of compensation to us, the true owners of the land. IOC’s megaproject has devastated parts of our land and continues to do so today, all the while preventing us from practising our unique way of life and traditional activities in these areas. IOC is the largest manufacturer of iron ore pellets in Canada and has reaped billions and billions in profits by illegally exploiting our land and natural resources.
Rio Tinto, one of the largest mining multinationals in the world, is the majority shareholder and operator of IOC. Rio Tinto boasts about its commitment to Aboriginal Peoples across the world and values its image as model corporate citizen. Yet, our experience over the last decades has unfortunately taught us that those are just empty words.
Efforts by the Innu to make peace with IOC/Rio Tinto
For 4 years now, the two Innu communities have shown great openness and a genuine desire to find an honourable way to settle their conflict with IOC/Rio Tinto, including attempting to negotiate an Impact and Benefits Agreement (IBA) in good faith with the representatives of IOC/Rio Tinto, just as they have successfully done with the four other mining companies which operate in their Nitassinan (one of which, ArcelorMittal, has been operating in Innu territory since the 1960s).
Legal action instituted and authorized against IOC/Rio Tinto
It is in these circumstances that the Innu of Uashat mak Mani-Utenam and of Matimekush-Lac John filed their legal proceedings against IOC on March 18, 2013, at the Superior Court of Quebec in Montreal. In such proceedings, the Innu invoke their Aboriginal title with regard to IOC/Rio Tinto’s project sites, in the same way the Tsilhqot’in First Nation successfully did regarding forestry operations in their historic victory in the Supreme Court on June 26, 2014. The Innu motion seeks to stop IOC’s projects in Quebec and Labrador and also seeks compensation for the damages caused by IOC, which are evaluated at $900 million.
In this respect, IOC tried to have the case dismissed by trying to convince the Court that the Innu had to sue the governments instead of IOC. However, the judge rejected IOC’s motion this past September 19, thereby allowing the Innu to continue their legal proceedings against the company.