THUNDER BAY – Chief Cornelius Wabasse of Webequie First Nation says; “Following recent reports in the media and consequent enquiries, Webequie First Nation would like to remind all those who wish to work with our First Nation and, particularly commercial entities, that they must have direct engagement and consultation with our First Nation before and above any other agency. We, the Webequie First Nation people, are the primary contact and exclusive decision-makers for our community, not any third party or external organization.”
The Chief and Council of Webequie First Nation is reaffirming its community rights and local autonomy with respect to decision-making processes in the Ring of Fire. Today, Webequie First Nation released two independent documents; a Community Position Paper and a Consultation and Accommodation Protocol, which both clarify and outline for industry, government and the public that the membership of Webequie First Nation will determine their own community-led negotiated process as it relates to the traditional, historic, ancestral, and customary areas of Webequie First Nation.
Webequie First Nation is one of the two northern First Nations that will be most directly impacted by the potential mining developments for the Ring of Fire area. Webequie First Nation is a member community of the Matawa First Nations Management Tribal Council, which was created to serve First Nations.
In recent weeks, the Matawa First Nations Management Tribal Council has been promoting a stop order on development in the Ring of Fire and lobbying for a Joint Panel Review Environmental Assessment on behalf of all the regional Matawa First Nations. Webequie First Nation supports regional First Nations’ concerns over the current Environmental Assessment process but notes that the Matawa Tribal Council or any other third party, is not a decision-making authority or community voice for Webequie First Nation.
Continues Wabasse; “Matawa First Nations Tribal Council provides our First Nations with important support services but it must be clearly understood that its staff do not represent our First Nation membership on community issues. Industry and government are required to engage directly with our First Nation and it is the Webequie Council through quorum who can legally commit Webequie First Nation to any type of process or agreement that affects its membership.”
In addition to establishing Webequie First Nation’s position on the Matawa Tribal Council, the Community Position Paper also provides important community information on Industry and Government Protocol, Regional Infrastructure as well as the Discovery Area.
“The purpose of publicly releasing these documents is to help guide industry, government and any other commercial interests through the process of doing business or working collaboratively with our First Nation. We want to demonstrate that there are meaningful paths forward to building positive and mutually beneficial working relationships. We believe that education and awareness are the best way to build understanding and reciprocal respect.”
Webequie First Nation has built tremendous community capacity over the past three years to become investment-ready and prepare to take advantage of emerging socio-economic benefits in the Ring of Fire. This capacity includes the establishment of a community-based Webequie Ring of Fire team. Copies of both the Community Position Paper and Consultation and Accommodation Protocol are available upon request through the Webequie First Nation Ring of Fire Office.