THUNDER BAY – MINING – There are rumblings in the Ring of Fire. Not the rumbling of machinery working, but more concerns about the slow progress from government and mining companies.
Marten Falls First Nation, is a remote community located 250Km Northeast of Thunder Bay, Ontario. The Ring of Fire lies within the traditional lands of Marten Falls. Improved housing, education and economic development opportunities have been identified as the Government priorities to First Nation communities. Unfortunately, this is not the case for Marten Falls.
On September 7, 2012, Marten Falls entered into a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Canada and the Province of Ontario (MNDM, MNR) outlining the collaborative development of the ‘Ring of Fire.
According to Section 1.e. of this MOU:
- Assessment of community needs with respect to social, community and economic development supports, education and skills training, and health supports, including treatment for prescription drug abuse
In an attempt to be proactive and work within this MOU, Marten Falls began the construction of a Training Centre to offer skills and training for future employment in the Ring of Fire, and employment of community members to construct four homes designed to showcase as a solution to the current housing crisis that overshadows most First Nation Communities.
These projects remain incomplete or near completion, two years later as a result of various delays from the government and is questionable to the intent of the MOU.
Marten Falls First Nation has been on a Boil Water Advisory for ten years after the new water treatment facility failed and are dependent on bottled water to be shipped in on a weekly basis. The cost of flying in water to the community has been in the millions of dollars. Under the former Conservative Government the promise was made that fixing the problem would happen. To date under both the former Conservative Government and now the Liberal Government there remains no change.
“The Government would never allow this to happen in any other municipality in Canada,” remarked Linda Moonias, Marten Fall Band Councillor.
In addition, the community engaged in planning to build a net zero multi-unit for community professionals, such as teachers. Currently, these professionals must live in a residence originally built to provide respectful accommodations for community Elders. This has significantly contributed to overcrowded housing conditions.
Chief Bruce Achneepineskum explained, “These projects are stalled due to funding and lack of commitment from the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM).” He added, “We have inappropriate living conditions, people who want to be trained and employed. We have tried to address these problems with community-based solutions, but letters responded to by Ministers with very little changes. Meetings produce little in terms of rectifying the issues. We do not feel we are being heard.”
“It has become overly apparent that the MOU is not being adhered to,” stated Linda Moonias. “Our community agreed to and wish to continue advancing our relationship with the Government and industry partners as defined in the Aboriginal and treaty rights in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. This includes a Duty to Consult.”
Concerns regarding the MOU have been repeatedly raised by Marten Falls to the government since 2012. “The Government actions, with respect to their commitment to consult the community, indicates a lack of good intent,” stated Chief Achneepineskum. “The Government agreed to establish community based consultation and to keep our community aware of all proposed activities within the Ring of Fire. This has not been happening.”
Earlier this week Neskantaga First Nation was expressing their community’s concern that the efforts of consultation with mining companies was not meeting their expectations.