Press Statement from James Smith Cree Nation
The Chiefs of the First Nations most impacted by a proposed diamond mine located in their traditional territory welcome the recent change in controlling ownership of the Star Orion Project, but remain concerned that their people’s interests have not been addressed.
“At this stage, we have no guarantees even with the change in controlling interest that this mine is in our people’s best interests,” stated Chief Wally Burns of the James Smith Cree Nation (Saskatchewan). “We have a sacred duty to protect the Treaties and lands our ancestors bequeathed us and we don’t have that yet.”
“We’re not opposed to development, but we will not be satisfied with beads and trinkets.”
Chief Robert Head of the Peter Chapman Band added, “We got nowhere with Star Diamond and now look forward to negotiating meaningful agreements that will resolve our concerns about the loss of lands and resources, and other negative impacts of the mine on our Treaty rights. We must have agreements that provide our membership a share of the benefits from all phases of the Project.”
Chief Calvin Sanderson of the Chakastaypasin First Nation stated, “We will not provide our consent for this project to move forward without the immediate negotiation of appropriate agreements, including environmental conduct agreements, that meet the sacred duty of our First Nations to protect our lands and to benefit from the riches that the Rio Tinto seeks to take from them.”
Chief Burns added, “Yes, the province offered us some “Accommodation Measures” to try to appease us, but those measures do nothing to resolve our concerns about the loss of lands and resources, and other negative impacts of the mine on our Treaty rights.” The First Nations hope to re-open discussions with the Ministry of Environment on the entire project.
And while the Chiefs look forward to working with Rio Tinto to address these concerns, they restated that the mine will not proceed until and unless the interests of their First Nations have been satisfied.