Thunder Bay– Chiefs from the Lake Nipigon First Nations, together with their Council members, proxies and staff technicians, recently gathered in Red Rock to jointly formulate an action plan regarding the failure to consult and the issuance of permits, or lack thereof, by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) to non-Indigenous commercial outfitters operating on Lake Nipigon.
Chief Wilfred King of Kiashke Zaaging Anishinaabek (KZA – Gull Bay FN) was appointed as spokesperson for the collective First Nations by Chief Theresa Nelson of Animbiigoo Zaagi’igan Anishinaabek (Lake Nipigon Ojibway FN), Chief Mel Hardy of Biinjitiwaabik Zaaging Anishinaabek (Rocky Bay FN), Chief Joe Ladouceur of Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek (Sand Point FN) and Chief Matt Dupuis of Red Rock Indian Band (Lake Helen Reserve).
“We find ourselves at a critical point in time”, says King, “where we – the people who are the most adversely impacted by decisions made by ministerial staff in regional offices – continue to see our Inherent, Aboriginal and Treaty rights and interests subjugated by the government. Our collective FNs have witnessed the provision of or assurance to benefits to non-Indigenous individuals or industries such as tourism, mining and forestry and other such operations who undertake operations deemed within supposed regional or provincial priorities over that of the provision of consultation, access, and inclusion by our FNs as is legally required.”
Chief King will head the Lake Nipigon Chiefs Committee and work with staff technicians appointed by each First Nation to continue to develop and initiate an action plan which will see greater involvement of FN leaders in the resource permitting and management processes. King goes on to state that the Chiefs are unanimous in their position that the oversight of the natural resources on which their people are dependant must begin to be managed jointly by the impacted FNs and the associated ministries, but only until such a time in which the FNs have the capacity to regulate and administrate by way of tripartite agreements and regulatory protocols.
“The concept of FN resource management is not a foreign one in Ontario. We plan to push the provincial government to not only recognize their legal obligations to our FNs in regards to consultation, accommodation, and consent on all permits they issue. Further, we intend to realize the development and institution of a Memorandum of Understanding and establishment of regulatory and operational protocols for our collective.”
Matters surrounding the management of Lake Nipigon watershed by the MNRF recently came to a head when pseudo-commercial houseboat charter operations were discovered to be operating in a manner to which the FN communities purport negatively impact not only their people but the resource as a whole.
“If current fish populations and environmental conditions are still deemed as precarious by MNRF to the point where FNs see their own fish quotas decreased over the years, then why does the Ministry do nothing in so far as limiting the access of non-Indigenous individuals and businesses to the resources? The Lake Nipigon Chiefs are unanimous in their assertion that we will pursue this matter to the fullest extent and take the necessary actions required to ensure that our ability to govern over our Territories is respected and that our Lands, Waters and Resources are utilized in a sustainable manner that recognizes our rights as paramount.”
The LN Chiefs plan to meet again on September 6th in KZA-GBFN to review the file and approve further action.