‘The pandemic does not exempt governments from their duty to consult’
The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) is questioning the government of Quebec’s decision to authorize the resumption of mining activities on lands within traditional territories of the First Nations, claiming it undermines efforts against COVID-19.
"We judge that Quebec's decision to allow the resumption of mining operations in a hurry is dangerously compromising the efforts made by our communities to slow the spread of the disease in the regions,” said the AFNQL chief Ghislain Picard in a statement. “In this regard, the movement and comings and goings (fly-in/fly-out) of mining workers is of great concern. I would also like to reiterate that the pandemic does not exempt governments from their duty to consult."
The assembly stressed that the First Nations are vulnerable to the pandemic, and that “First Nations experts are unanimous on the fact that deconfinement will have to be extended over a longer period, for several reasons, including the lack of confinement sites.”
The assembly is also worried about how the public would perceive the resumption of operations with regards to preventive measures, stating that these measures must stay intact despite the development.
"In the face of COVID-19, our leaders prioritize the health and safety of our members above everything else, even the economy,” said Picard.
The AFNQL also thanked First Nations leaders who have contributed in the fight against COVID-19 within their communities, saying that instructions limiting access to these communities are “producing encouraging results with a relatively stable positive case rate.”