Innu salute decision by Supreme Court of Canada to refuse to hear appeal
by Rio Tinto (IOC)

UASHAT MAK MANI-UTENAM, QC, Oct. 15, 2015 – The Innu First Nations of Uashat mak Mani-utenam and Matimekush-Lac John today celebrated the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision to refuse to hear an appeal by Rio Tinto (IOC) in their $900 million lawsuit against the company. The attempt by Rio Tinto (IOC) to have the case dismissed before trial met with the same result at both the Superior Court ofQuebec and the Court of Appeal of Québec.

“Rio Tinto and its subsidiary IOC have been seeking to delay the judicial process in the hopes that they would exhaust us and that we would back down. We are all familiar with this strategy by large, wealthy corporations. But this decision by the Supreme Court of Canada means that Rio Tinto (IOC) will no longer be able to evade our lawsuit. We are more determined than ever to see it through to the end, and, sooner or later, the company will have to answer for what it has done, including its systematic violation of our rights since the 1950s,” said Mike McKenzie, Chief of Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam.

Even with its $900 million suit and the injunction it is seeking against the IOC megaproject, the Innu have tried since 2010 to find an honourable solution to their conflict with Rio Tinto. A number of Innu Chiefs attended Rio Tinto’s AGM on April 16, 2015, where they asked its president and CEO Sam Walsh and his board of directors to intervene to end the longstanding conflict that has impacted generations of Innu.

“Rio Tinto (IOC) stubbornly and blindly continues down its rogue path rather than seeking to turn the page on this dishonourable period in its history. Meanwhile, the other mining companies on our territory and many more elsewhere in Canada are acting as good corporate citizens. It also unfair for these other companies that Rio Tinto is allowed to continue to behave as a bad corporate citizen while they are required to play by the modern rules of corporate behaviour that emphasize respect for Indigenous rights,” explained Réal McKenzie, Chief of Matimekush-Lac John.

The legal proceedings against Rio Tinto and its subsidiary IOC will now move forward as the mining company has exhausted all avenues for hiding from the Innu’s legitimate demands. Today’s decision by the Supreme Court is in fact a great victory for all First Nations in Canada that are seeking to force companies to respect their rights.


London, United Kingdom, April 16, 2015—Three First Nations chiefs, dressed in traditional garb and aware of the historic nature of their action, have come to London to address the shareholders of mining giant Rio Tinto directly during their annual general meeting in today, April 16, 2015. On the floor of the meeting, they asked Rio Tinto’s president and CEO, Sam Walsh, and its board of directors to intervene to end a longstanding conflict between the Innu Nation in Quebec, Canada, and mining company IOC, majority owned by Rio Tinto.

Inspired by Midnight Oil’s Beds Are Burning, a political song demanding the return to Australian aboriginals of ancestral lands stolen 200 years earlier by British colonists, the Innu chiefs informed Rio Tinto that “it’s time to pay the rent,” 60 years after exploitation of their territory began.

Supported by international law recognizing that indigenous peoples have rights—notably free, prior and informed consent—the Innu chiefs wanted to inform Rio Tinto shareholders that they can shed light on the negligence of IOC in Canada.

The Innu chiefs sought to inform Rio Tinto shareholders that there is specific legal precedent in Canada, where a recent Supreme Court ruling recognized the existence of First Nations ancestral title and stated that Aboriginal peoples holding this title, including the Innu of Quebec, “have the right to the benefits associated with the land—to use it, enjoy it and profit from its economic development” (excerpt from the ruling).

The declaration render to the shareholders:

On behalf of our people, and the Chiefs of Uashat mak Mani-utenam, Ekuanitshit and Matimekush-Lac John, of the Innu Nation, we travelled across the Atlantic to inform you that your mining operations in Quebec, Canada, are affecting our lands, our people and our culture. For more than 65 Years, with no respect of our aboriginal rights, recognized by the United Nations and the Canadian constitution, your companies have exploited our territory’s resources without our consent and without compensation. As a consequence, we have had no choice but to begin legal proceedings. You need to know that, at this very moment, Rio Tinto is facing a 900 million dollars lawsuit. In August 2014, instead of dealing with us, Rio Tinto signed a benefit agreement with people that never lived on this land, our land; a shameful decision from all investors who accepted and supported this decision.

 We came here in peace and to be respected as the first owners of this beautiful land. Our question is: when will Rio Tinto negotiate and sign a reconciliation agreement with us like the one signed with our brothers and sisters from Australia? When will you respect us with the highest standard of your industries and the level of ethic that you say you uphold? You are taking all the resources without sharing the benefit with us, the children of the Nitassinan. For decades, our people have been ignored and are being treated as a problem instead of partners.

 Our message is clear: the time has come to pay the rent to the real owner of the land: the Innus of Uashat mak Mani-utenam, Ekuanitshit and Matimekush-Lac John.

 The mining company’s megaproject on the Innu people’s territory includes 20 mines that have since been abandoned, nine operating mines, a railway, three hydroelectric dams and port facilities. Rio Tinto’s activities have devastated the Innu territory permanently and have forced the eviction of families from their native territory, dispossessing them illegally of what formed the essence of their traditional lifestyle. IOC has reached impact and benefit agreements (IBAs) with other Aboriginal groups in Canada, but not with those who hold ancestral title to the territory affected by mining activities.

After the meeting with Rio Tinto shareholders at the annual meeting, the Innu delegation will head to Paris for other awareness-raising and information activities on April 17 and 18.


Rio Tinto AGM takes place at Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre (Broad Sanctuary, Westminster, London)

For more information, and for interview requests:                                       

In Canada          

Jean-Alexandre D’EtcheverryCommunication Advisor



Raoul Vollant

ITUM Communications Division


In Europe        

Éric CardinalCommunications Advisor

UK: 0203 5952 599

CAN: 1-514-922-9246



Uashat mak Mani-utenam, January 7, 2015 – The Innu First Nations of Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam and Matimekush-Lac John, whose traditional territory (Nitassinan) covers a large part of North-eastern Quebec and Labrador, celebrated on January 6, 2015 a new legal victory in their 900 million dollar lawsuit targeting the Iron Ore Company of Canada (majority owned as well as operated by the mining giant Rio Tinto). Rio Tinto (IOC) was seeking to have the case dismissed before trial by arguing that the Innu should have sued the government rather than the company. On September 19, 2014, the Rio Tinto (IOC) motion to dismiss the lawsuit was rejected at first instance by the Quebec Superior Court and the Court of Appeal has now refused to hear an appeal of the judgment by Rio Tinto (IOC).

“Rio Tinto and its subsidiary IOC continue to try to ignore us, just as they always have. IOC’s president even refuses to meet with us personally. But after this judgement, Rio Tinto (IOC) will no longer be able to hide. The highest Court in Quebec has made clear that Rio Tinto’s subsidiary IOC will have to answer in Court for its violations of our constitutionally protected rights, which violations date back to the 1950s”, declared the Chief of Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam, Mike McKenzie.

Despite their 900 million dollar lawsuit and the injunction they are seeking to put an end to the “IOC megaproject”, the Innu have tried time and again to achieve an honourable outcome with Rio Tinto by way of negotiation. The Innu even offered Rio Tinto one last chance to make peace this fall after having organized and carried out a campaign (the “Rio Tinto-IOC must pay its rent” campaign) to educate Rio Tinto on the grave prejudice that the “IOC megaproject” has caused them and continues to cause them.

“While we have made every effort possible to come to an agreement with the company, Rio Tinto (IOC) was more negative than ever this fall. And yet we have had no trouble in coming to terms with all other mining operators on our territory. In this matter, Rio Tinto continues to act as a rogue company: it seems to believe that norms concerning the respect of the rights of First Nations do not apply to it. The fact that Rio Tinto is the only mining company on our lands that acts in such a manner constitutes both an injustice to our peoples as well as an injustice to the other mining companies that act as good corporate citizens on our territory and elsewhere in Canada”, added the Chief of Matimekush-Lac John, Réal McKenzie.

This great legal victory ensures the continuation of the legal proceedings of the Innu against Rio Tinto and its subsidiary IOC and, in addition, serves to confirm that private companies like Rio Tinto (IOC) cannot ignore the rights of First Nations and then simply hide behind government.

For more information on the conflict:

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SOURCE : Jean-Claude Therrien Pinette

Office for the Protection of Rights and the Territory, ITUM
Cell.: 418-409-5681



The Innu of Uashat mak Mani-Utenam and Matimekush-Lac John share common ancestors but now form two distinct communities and societies within the larger Innu Nation. Their traditional territory, called “Nitassinan” in the Innu language, covers a significant area of Labrador and Northeastern Quebec. Like their ancestors, these two First Nations occupy and inhabit their traditional territory and practice their Innu way of life, particularly, hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering.

The arrival of Rio Tinto (IOC) in Innu Territory

In the late 1940s, it was in the Nitassinan of the Innu of Uashat mak Mani-utenam and Matimekush-Lac John that the Iron Ore Company of Canada, now majority-owned as well as operated by the mining giant Rio Tinto, started the construction of the IOC iron ore mining megaproject. This megaproject includes:

  • 20 abandoned mines in the Schefferville area;
  • 9 mines at its mining complex currently operating in Labrador City;
  • the QNS&L railway;
  • the 3 hydroelectric dams of Menihek, Twin Falls (replaced by Churchill Falls) and Sainte-Marguerite 2; and
  • the IOC port facilities in Sept-Îles.

The “IOC megaproject” permanently devastated the Innu’s Nitassinan and forced the eviction of Innu families from their homeland while illegally dispossessing them of what was the essence of their traditional way of life.

Rio Tinto is in the process of increasing its production capacity at the “IOC megaproject” from 18 to 23 million tonnes of iron ore concentrate and is seeking to open a 10th mine in Labrador City called “Wabush 3”.

Efforts by the Innu to make peace with Rio Tinto (IOC)

For over 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 Rio Tinto (IOC), including attempting to negotiate an Impact and Benefits Agreement (IBA) in good faith with representatives of Rio Tinto (IOC), 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).

Partnership agreements (often called “impact and benefits agreements” or “IBAs”) between natural resource industries and First Nations are now an integral part of the modern economic landscape in Canada. These agreements allow First Nations to address the glaring socio-economic needs in their communities while allowing industry to avoid the costs and risks associated with projects which are subject to unsettled rights claims.

Rio Tinto (IOC) is trying to do everything it can to resist this new reality, which after all, ensures an orderly development of natural resources in Canada, to the benefit of all Canadians. In fact, the behaviour of Rio Tinto (IOC) in this matter is all the more surprising considering that the Supreme Court of Canada just delivered a clear and unequivocal message in the Tsilhqot’in judgment out of British Columbia (in a case similar to that of the Innu against IOC at the Superior Court of Quebec) to governments, as well as to natural resource developers. Indeed, in this historic and highly publicized judgment, the Supreme Court reminded governments and developers that they cannot ignore the rights of First Nations to their traditional lands and to their natural resources.

Legal action instituted and authorized against Rio Tinto (IOC)

It is in these circumstances that the Innu of Uashat mak Mani-Utenam and of Matimekush-Lac John filed their legal proceedings against Rio Tinto’s subsidiary, 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 the “IOC megaproject” 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 the “IOC megaproject” in Quebec and in Labrador and also seeks compensation for the damages caused by Rio Tinto (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 the company. However, the Superior Court judge at first instance rejected IOC’s motion on September 19, 2014, thereby allowing the Innu to continue their legal proceedings against the company, and on January 6th, 2015, the Quebec Court of Appeal refused to hear an appeal by IOC on the matter.

January 7th, 2015