THUNDER BAY – Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy made a statement regarding hazardous environmental contaminants found on or near First Nations’ territories despite years of First Nations’ demands for clean-up.
“We need high-level action from government and industry that brought these contaminants into our territories—we need them to take responsibility for cleanup,” Regional Chief Beardy said. “While new business in forestry, natural gas, energy and mining are being considered, the mess left behind on our homelands the first time around remain there. It is affecting not only the environment but our heath and our traditional way of life.”
These statements come after a two-day Chiefs of Ontario Contaminant Workshop held in Timmins last week where participants indicated that contaminants are a critical area that requires high-level attention between First Nations, scientific researchers, government and industry. It was the first formal meeting that focused explicitly on contaminant issues.
Another area of concern to emerge was the threat of pipelines across First Nations territories. Participants indicated concern regarding both the Line 9 reversal and the proposed Energy East pipeline. Moreover, participants from First Nations expressed important concerns on mining developments such as the Ring of Fire in relation to potential contaminant impacts of mining on wildlife and traditional ways of life.
“What we have known and what was expressed in this workshop, is that First Nations need to be able to independently assess projects in their territories through free, prior and informed consent, and capacity is needed to better protect our lands and resources,” Regional Chief Beardy said.
Since 2008, First Nations in Ontario have been calling on the federal government to clean up Mid-Canada Radar Sites, ensure healthy environments, and provide funding to address contamination, environment, and nutrition and to develop safe guidelines for contaminants in food and water.