FORT WILLIAM FIRST NATION, ON – Fort William First Nation appeared before Madam Justice Pierce of the Superior Court of Justice on Monday June 23, 2014 in Thunder Bay to request an injunction to prevent Ontario from allowing any further activity on FWFN Treaty Lands and from issuing a final approval for the proposed Horizon Wind Inc. Big Thunder Wind Project on those Lands until such time that Ontario commits to protect Treaty Rights of FWFN community members and those of future generations from incompatible Treaty Lands development.
Madam Justice Pierce has reserved her decision to allow her time to thoroughly review the factual record and legal submissions of the parties before issuing her decision.
Although the former Minister of Environment, the Honourable Jim Bradley, and former Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the Honourable Bill Mauro, promised that no final approval for the Project would be issued until all outstanding project concerns are resolved with FWFN and its Treaty partners, Ontario’s legal counsel did not agree with that position on Monday and continues to oppose interim relief or to halt the final approval process for the project.
Chief Morriseau Explains Reasoning for Injunction
FWFN will seek a process of engagement with these Ontario representatives, in which all project information is brought to its community members, on and off reserve, so that they may explain the impact of the project on their current use, future intended use and the need for protection of their future generations’ use of the Treaty Lands. Ontario requires this information to live up to its Constitutional obligation to protect the Treaty Rights of FWFN and its members in all government decisions relating to this project.
“Legal counsel for Ontario stated in the hearing that Ontario cannot provide FWFN and other Robinson Superior Treaty partner community members with requested Project information for such disclosure would impede its final Project approval decision making process.” says Fort William First Nation Chief Georjann Morriseau.
Treaty Trumps Policy
“I find this statement to the Court deeply disturbing given the sole outstanding issue in the decision-making process is satisfaction of the Crown’s Constitutional Duty to Consult with Treaty community members in order to obtain the impact information necessary to protect their Treaty Rights through either a denial of the project as presently envisioned or through sufficient conditions placed on the project to ensure the accessibility and the condition of the Treaty Lands and waters for continuation of all historical practices for the Treaty Rights holder,” added Chief Morriseau.
FWFN has sought the proposed project information through the Freedom of Information and Projection of Privacy Act, but the Ministry of Environment and the City of Thunder Bay have yet to respond to its requests of March 19, 2014, and the estimated costs of disclosure from the Ministries of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Natural Resources and Energy along with that of the Ontario Power Authority are close to $20,000.00.FWFN next steps will be to seek voluntary disclosure of this information from Ontario and to enter into a meaningful consultation process with the Crown in an effort to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement regarding the proposed Big Thunder Wind Project.