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Grassy Narrows First Nation says province trying to stop road repairs


May 31, 2011, EDT.

Grassy Narrows First Nation says province trying to stop road repairs

The Canadian Press

ASUBPEESCHOSEEWAGONG, Ont. – A northwestern Ontario First Nation says its long-running blockade in the woods northeast of Kenora saw action today.

A spokeswoman says women from Grassy Narrows blocked Ministry of Natural Resources enforcement officers who were attempting to stop back road repair work by the First Nation.

Judy Da Silva says the community is repairing a bridge used as an alternate route out of the community during forest fires, flooding and other emergencies.

Da Silva says the ministry has threatened $10,000 fines if the work is not halted, but she says work continued today behind the blockade.

The blockade began in 2002 when women and youths from the community blocked logging machinery from entering forest the First Nation says is its traditional territory.

Da Silva says the back roads are also used by Grassy Narrows members to access hunting, trapping, wild rice, medicine and berry picking areas.

"We the Anishinabek will never stop exercising our inherent right to use and protect the land, water and the forests," said Da Silva.

"The same province that permitted paper mills to dump 20,000 pounds of mercury into our river, and permits industrial clearcutting against our will claims to be protecting our environment by stopping road repairs," she said.

Previously the back roads had been maintained by local contractors through provincial subsidies provided to the logging industry.

Grassy Narrows is now repairing the roads at its own expense, but claims the government is trying to stop them, citing a lack of provincial permits.

"The MNR attempt to stop maintenance of the roads is an attack on our community's self sufficiency," said Roberta Keesick, a Grassy Narrows trapper.

Earlier this year, the ministry and Grassy Narrows First Nation signed a memorandum pledging to continue to discuss harvesting wood from Grassy Narrows land.

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