THUNDER BAY – Leaders Ledger – On May 9th, 2012, Ontario Minister Rick Bartolucci announced the Cliffs refinery decision and issued his “White Paper” for the Ring of Fire. The Ontario White Paper confirmed that Ontario and Cliffs had already made agreements and decisions for our lands in a blatant and illegal attempt by Ontario to expand its own influence and jurisdiction in Treaty No. 9. The Ontario “White Paper” is just the latest effort by Ontario to determine what’s best for First Nations and implement policies and programs in line with that determination.
The Minister has made a mistake.
Ontario, Canada and Cliffs are committed to fast tracking the Cliffs road, open pit chromite mines and the refinery project.
If the Ontario plan for the Ring of Fire is implemented it will bring limited economic benefits for First Nations, its social and environmental impacts would be devastating and it would frustrate our longstanding belief that this is our land and we intend to decide what happens on our lands.
This is not our way.
We all know that China, Asia and the United States have a great appetite for chromite and other minerals on our lands. That is why the Ontario Premier has described the Ring of Fire as a project in the “national interest” and compared its importance to the Alberta oil sands.
But why is this Ontario’s last frontier? Why should Ontario develop it without us?
This is our homeland and we should determine what happens here.
Ontario and Canada must engage with First Nations -meaningfully -before proceeding with their current process. First Nations, Ontario and Canada need to sit down and negotiate a government-to-government agreement, a “New Deal” for First Nations and the North.
I believe that the “New Deal” will have three essential elements:
1. Deciding What Happens on Our Lands, A Government-to-Government Agreement for First Nation Jurisdiction and Decision Making
We have a vision for our lands, a vision of hope and dignity. The essential condition for this vision is that First Nations negotiate a Government-to-Government Agreement for the recognition of First nation jurisdiction and decision-making regarding regional environmental assessment, planning, and resource revenue and benefit sharing.The decisions we have to make are not simply about a road, mines and a refinery.They are decisions about our own plans and priorities for the development of our lands and resources.
2. Speaking for Ourselves, A Negotiated Environmental Assessment
We need to clearly understand the changes that the development of the Ring of Fire region will bring to the environment, our culture and way of life. The current Environmental Assessment process is a generic public process with no distinct or government-to-government engagement with the First Nations that will be affected by the proposed projects. We need a negotiated First Nations/Ontario/Canada environmental review process that is fair to our communities and ensures that potential impacts are fully and thoroughly considered before any project decisions are made. All who have something to say should be given an opportunity to speak and have their say
in our own language, in our own communities.
3. Our Fair Share, A Framework for Revenue Sharing
Ontario has already agreed to the principle that First Nations must to share fairly in
the benefits of natural resource development in the Ring of Fire. We need to hold the government to that promise. But to capture our fair share of the benefits of the Ring of Fire, Ontario and Canada will need to support solutions for the prescription drug crisis and close the gap in living standards between First Nations and other Ontarions, especially in the areas of education, housing, health care and basic sewer and water infrastructure. In order for our communities to support the Ring of Fire, Canada and Ontario must make a serious financial commitment to address the social and economic disparities of our communities and not just offer to train workers.
I urge you to unite behind our three part plan for a New Deal for First Nations and
The practical reality is that no project in the Ring of Fire can proceed without First
Chief Peter Moonias