THUNDER BAY – Moving forward on major mining projects, like the Ring of Fire in Northwestern Ontario are potentially put at risk by actions of senior levels of government. Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo expressed concern today about plans to move forward on projects in British Columbia and Northern Ontario without respecting the rights and interests of First Nations. “As we near the first anniversary of Canada’s endorsement of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we must achieve respectful, practical approaches that will lead to mutually-beneficial economic development,” said AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo.
“As recently pointed out by the UN Special Rapporteur James Anaya, resource development projects are one of the most significant sources of abuse of Indigenous rights worldwide and run counter to the self determination of indigenous peoples. We must be committed to turning this around – it is an imperative of our rights and necessary to unleash Canada’s full economic potential.”
National Chief Atleo’s comments come after two recent decisions by CEAA. Yesterday CEAA announced that the controversial proposed “New Prosperity Mine” would undergo an environmental review despite national opposition from First Nations. The project had previously been rejected on environmental grounds from then Minister Jim Prentice.
“It is hard to understand why CEAA did not reject the so-called New Prosperity Mine proposal which is essentially one of the options in the first proposal that CEAA has already rejected, said AFN BC Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould. “The credibility of the Canadian Environmental Assessment process is at stake. We need to move forward to create a strong but sustainable economic future for everyone in British Columbia rather than create barriers and waste time and energy on unnecessary processes. There can only be one legitimate outcome of the second review and that is rejection.”
CEAA’s approval of an environmental assessment for the proposed “New Prosperity Mine” comes shortly after a controversial decision to allow a limited review of the Cliffs Chromite Project in Ontario.
In late October, CEAA turned down requests by Matawa First Nations Chiefs for a Joint Review Panel Environmental Assessment of a proposed chromite mine in the Ring of Fire, an area in the James Bay lowlands of Ontario. Matawa Chiefs were in Ottawa yesterday announcing their launch of a judicial review which they hope will overturn this decision.
National Chief Atleo and Ontario Regional Chief Angus Toulouse stood with Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Stan Beardy and Matawa Chiefs Sonny Gagnon from Aroland First Nation, Chief Peter Moonias of Neskantaga First Nation and Chief Roger Oshkineegish of Nibinimik First Nation as they continued calls for their full engagement.
“First Nations are not opposed to development, but not at any cost,” said National Chief Atleo. “We want to see environmentally sound community development that respects our rights, reflects our relationship to our land, our resources, and our traditions. The international community recognizes that the path towards economic progress for everyone rests on the principles of respect, transparency, and consent. If Canada wants to promote new mining ventures, it must allow the environmental review process to do what it was designed to do by listening to the people who will inherit the costs and benefits of projects in their communities.”