Ring of Fire Plan Does Not Have Total Unity

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Letters to the Editor

Jennifer Wabano - Weenusk First Nation
Jennifer Wabano – Weenusk First Nation

WEENUSK FN – Letters – There is a plan that would see Mushkegowuk Grand Chief Lawrence Martin joining the chiefs of Matawa Tribal Council at the annual Prospector’s and Developers Convention (PDAC) in Toronto next week to outline his plans for a new railway line running from Moosonee to the Ring Of Fire mining project.

I’ve attended the Nishnawbe Aski Nation Chiefs meeting that was held at the Days Inn Timmins this week. I was an observer listening in on the issues being brought forward, which included missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW), working together and moving forward. I was present as National Chief Bellegarde was speaking on the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

While the Mushkegowuk Grand Chief Lawrence Martin is wanting to move the proposed rail and seaport at such great speed and velocity, the issue of MMIW remains a big problem that isn’t prioritized.

One of the problems facing First Nations women are the seaports itself; this is one of the reasons why they go missing. An example is the Great Lakes sex trade which has a strong link to the Thunder Bay seaport whose victims are vulnerable First Nations women and girls as young as 10.

At the rate that this proposed rail and seaport is going in the traditional Mushkegowuk territory, I find myself wondering if there have been any discussions or meetings that took place regarding concerns of potential trafficking of Native women at the seaport.

Perhaps first, the Grand Chief needs to look deeper into the issue of MMIW. We do not want the same fate for our Mushkegowuk women and girls. Having a seaport raises a red flag in this regard, especially when there has not yet been an inquiry into MMIW and the government refuses to initiate one.

I would like to remind the chiefs that “working together” means including everyone. Working together means no secret deals with mining companies, it means hearing the concerns of community members and not brushing it off your shoulders.

One of the phrases I hear quite often is “We have to stop living in the past, we must move forward,” and I completely agree because if we are to look ahead and move forward, we have to look at leaving something for the future generations. We have to leave them clean, fresh water. The potential damage that the Ring of Fire will do to our water, lakes and rivers is enormous. Once the poison hexavalent chromium goes into our water systems, people will start getting sick of cancer, and the animals that use the water will be affected as well.

A lot of First Nations in the Ring of Fire belt depend on the fish as their main food supply in the lakes and rivers within the Ring of Fire belt. If the Ring of Fire goes through, the poison will suffocate the fish and they will also become cancerous. The Cree communities in the James and Hudson Bay coast will be affected as well due to the connecting rivers.

I read somewhere that the Ring of Fire was named after Johnny Cash’s song “Ring of Fire.” Maybe Martin is right when he says that this thing is really starting to catch on fire.

If the RoF goes through, we will all go down down down into the burning ring of fire. The potential tens of billions of dollars that will come from the Ring of Fire will not save our future generations when they start dying of cancer. We will all burn and go down once the poison enters our waters due to the chromite production.

The ones that will be impacted the most is the First Nations in the Ring of Fire belt, and the Mushkegowuk Cree communities in the connecting rivers. The way the government is looking at the MMIW issue will be no different on how they will look at cancer stricken First Nations from this chromite development.

Jennifer Wabano
Weenusk First Nation member