Latest Announcement on Ring of Fire Shakes Webequie
WEBEQUIE FN – THUNDER BAY = The announcement of a Ring of Fire Development Corporation by Minister of Northern Development and Mines Michael Gravelle has generated some controversy. “The Province’s decision to unilaterally move ahead with the economic development corporation for the Ring of Fire is disappointing,” states Webequie First Nation Chief Cornelius Wabasse. “We have been clear that we are willing to work with Ontario about Ring of Fire issues, but it has to be in a true spirit of partnership. Decisions of this magnitude cannot be made by Ontario behind closed doors.”
Minister Gravelle made the announcement this week saying, “The development corporation is a vital step towards building the much-needed infrastructure that is critical to realizing the full potential of the Ring of Fire,” states Michael Gravelle, the Minister of Northern Development and Mines. “It is a key building block to achieving our mutual goals of unlocking regional economic growth and benefiting from value- added opportunities like mineral processing and job creation”.
“I have confidence that this team will guide us through this initial, and necessary phase of the ROF Infrastructure Development Corporation, and I am encouraged by the work that is already underway to bring together First Nations, key industry players, communities and the federal government as partners. Together we can find the best ways to move forward so we can all tap into the extraordinary potential of the Ring of Fire.”
In a media statement, Webiquie First Nation says, “The Ontario Government’s announcement of its establishment of the Ring of Fire Infrastructure Development Corporation violates clear commitments made to Webequie First Nation”
As the First Nation closest to the Ring of Fire, Webequie is in active negotiations with Ontario on the Ring of Fire development based on a bilateral memorandum of co-operation.
Webequie is also one of nine Matawa Tribal Council member First Nations engaged in a regional negotiation process with Ontario about potential resource development in the Ring of Fire.
“Development in the Ring of Fire will affect our lands and our way of life forever,” said Webequie Councillor Roy Spence. “We cannot participate in negotiations about development unless our title, rights and indigenous laws are respected. Ontario promised to engage with us as true partners both in direct government-to-government negotiations and as part of a regional process with the other members of Matawa.
“Ontario’s unilateral announcement of the creation of an economic development corporation is exactly the opposite of the kind of respectful process that we expect,” added Councillor Spence.
Chief Wabasse states that Webequie’s confidence in the regional process has been shaken. “Our community members are upset. We agreed as a community to negotiate with Ontario in good faith. This can’t happen if Ontario makes decisions without our involvement.”
Political Fire on Ring of Fire
Nipissing MPP and PC Finance Critic Vic Fedeli charges, “Today marks the sixth time in nine months the government has announced the Ring of Fire Development Corporation. Yet despite that considerable length of time, key industry, First Nations and Ontario Northland still haven’t been invited to the table. It raises questions about how serious the government really is about proceeding in the Ring of Fire, and it resembles the same “shoot first, ask for input later” approach they used in concocting their ill-advised ONTC fire sale scheme. The government must invite the transportation experts at Ontario Northland to the Ring of Fire table, and I’ll continue to work to see that happen.”
Michael Mantha, NDP critic for Northern Development and Mines, says, “The Liberal government has shown little progress has been made on its long-time promise to establish a Ring of Fire development corporation”.
“Today’s announcement shows the Liberal government is no further ahead now than it was five years ago,” Mantha said.
“I am disappointed to see that this announcement has no details on the progress of the Ring of Fire Development Corporation or how it will function. This government has had years to come up with a framework for the Ring of Fire and what we see today is all they were able to come up with is four civil servants sitting on a board and more empty promises.”
“We know in order for the Ring of Fire to be successful we must work with government, industry and First Nations. New Democrats have stressed from day one the importance of full participation from all stakeholders,” Mantha added.
“I am perplexed as to what the actual announcement is here other than to make an announcement for the sake of meeting its 60 day deadline. People across this province and in Northern Ontario are facing difficult times and are in need of good full-time jobs. This is just further proof that the Liberal government is unable to manage this file and industry and jobs will continue to leave Ontario if something is not done immediately,” Mantha concluded.