THUNDER BAY – Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Stan Beardy stated today that First Nations in the Far North, and their obvious opposition to Bill 191, continues to be ignored by the Provincial Government. This, following the decision by the Ontario Legislature Thursday, to hear Third Reading of Bill 191 despite loud protest and calls for abolishment from Northern Ontario.
“The voices of First Nations people in Northern Ontario continue to fall on deaf ears,” said NAN Grand Chief Stan Beardy. “The Premier of Ontario has failed to honor his promise to NAN First Nations that Bill 191 would not become legislation without our support. In yesterday’s Question Period, Premier McGuinty could not answer as to whether he intended to keep his word. It is obvious that his words mean very little and his promises even less.”
Thunder Bay Atikokan MPP Bill Mauro states, “Economic development and job creation have been a primary focus of our government. The success we have had creating employment through government investments has been critical to our community. Our Northern Ontario Heritage Fund has been a great success. Investments by our government in mass transit has led to hundreds of jobs at our local Bombardier plant”.
“When community groups express concern regarding Government legislation, they are taken very seriously — especially when it relates to economic development,” added Mauro.
“I know that all relevant Ministries (Ministry of Natural Resources; Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs; Ministry of Northern Development Mines & Forestry) are working to address concerns expressed by different stakeholder groups. An indication of our attempt to communicate with the public was having Bill 191 travel to Northern Communities after 1st Reading. This does not happen very often with Government Bills. Usually, they travel once only after 2nd Reading, if at all,” continued Mauro.
“I was also encouraged to hear that two First Nation Communities around the Ring of Fire have signed an agreement stating their intent and wish to see development go forward,” said Mauro.
Since Bill 191 was first introduced in June 2009, Nishnawbe Aski people have maintained their united position that it does not respect Aboriginal and Treaty Rights nor’ the inherent rights of First Nations. NAN First Nations have not been properly consulted on Bill 191, despite the Ontario Government’s attempts to publicize otherwise, and have strong concerns regarding the proposed legislation including the 225,000 square kilometers of boreal forest that will be protected in Northern Ontario – leaving minimal opportunity for economic growth.
“If Bill 191 passes Third Reading, we will not recognize the legislation,” said Beardy. “Through the Treaty making process we are recognized as a nation under International Law. When we made Treaty with the British Crown, we never gave up the right to govern ourselves or our custodial rights to the land. We will never give up our rights. We have put the Province on notice that if this Bill passes, there will be conflict and no certainty for developments of any kind in the North.”
NAN leadership, community members and supporters staged a two-day rally at Queen’s Park this week demanding the Ontario Government withdraw Bill 191. Attendance at the Standing Committee on General Governance meeting, saw NAN Chiefs and membership walk out en masse proclaiming that the Ontario Government “should be ashamed of themselves,” for continuing to ignore the North and the rights of First Nations people when the committee agreed by vote to submit amendments on the Bill. On Thursday, the group marched out of Question Period when Premier McGuinty could not answer to his own promise of a year ago.