Since the late 17th century, the Moisie River has been at the heart of commercial fishing and Atlantic salmon fishing. The Moisie River, flowing south from the headwaters at Lake Opocopa near the Labrador Border to the St. Lawrence River near Sept-Îles, is well known as one of the most important rivers for Atlantic salmon in North America. For thousands of years, the Innu thrived on the land, moving with the seasons and adapting. The river, which crosses the ancestral territory of Innu, is historically known as a central part of their culture.
Since 2010, the Innu's of Quebec and Labrador in Canada are suing the Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC), a Canadian subsidiary of RioTinto, for non-payment of sums due to mining on ancestral lands since the 1950s. Through the decades, IOC operated more than 20 mines around Schefferville and Labrador city, resulting in the degradation of the lands of the Innu First Nations of Uashat Mak Manu-Utenam and Matimekush-Lac John, whose traditional territory cover a large part of North-Eastern Quebec and Labrador.
In January 2015, the Superior Court of Quebec made clear that Rio Tinto’s subsidiary IOC will have to answer in Court for its violations of Innu’s constitutionally protected rights. Among other legislation, the Crown Lands Act (1970) and the Constitution Act (1982) recognize the rights of Aboriginal People over their ancestral lands.
This case is investigated by Pierre-Louis Tetu, a postdoctoral fellow at the Canada Chair in Environment, Society and Policy of the University of Ottawa, Jackie Dawson, holder of this Canada Research Chair, and Frédéric Lasserre, professor at the Department of Geography at Laval University.
Photo Credits: (NY Daily News, November 7, 2014) (In 2014, a train owned by Iron Ore Company (IOC) of Canada and carrying diesel fuel fell in to the Moisie River)