THUNDER BAY – At their meeting today, the Matawa Chiefs Council issued the following statement related to the activities of the Governments of Canada, Ontario, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), the Chiefs of Ontario (COO) and the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) who are compromising the positions of Indigenous rights holders:
“We have watched and waited patiently for the governments and First Nation political organizations to step up and support the sovereignty of the Matawa Chiefs Council and our communities with the impending development of the Ring of Fire Region and other critical minerals in the remote and rural north of Ontario, land subject to the James Bay Treaty No. 9 (1905-06 and 1929-30).
“The past year has unfolded a number of concerning developments that are directly impacting the Matawa member First Nations as Indigenous rights holders at a pivotal and crucial moment in the lives and history of our people and land. The developments that are about to occur in the Matawa traditional territories and homelands are a one-shot deal to correct the wrongs and grievances of our people, past, present and future generations who have waited for our turn to be active participants in a prosperous future that both Canada and Ontario are proclaiming.
“Colonial backroom deals have been struck to move forward on the Chiefs of Ontario – Ontario Government Prosperity Table to the tune of $25 Million, and at the same time the Assembly of First Nations Executive Committee has advanced its own interests and proposed a First Nations National Prosperity Table to the Prime Minister, and positioning itself to carry out the negotiations on the National Benefit-Sharing Framework that was announced Friday December 9 by Minister of Natural Resources Canada the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson within the Critical Minerals Strategy. These developments are all part and parcel of First Nations organizations positioning and aligning themselves to undermine the principled and unified positions of the Matawa Chiefs Council to date.
“Most disappointedly, the Matawa Chiefs Council have not received any support in advocacy on these issues that are unique to the remote and rural First Nations from our own Nishnawbe Aski Nation. While advancing a potential resolutions to inform and make the positions of Matawa communities known, the Nishnawbe Aski Nation denied us any political, technical or legal supports. In addition, to Canada’s dishonour, the funding by Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) of any basic capacity support on this issue has also been declined this year, which is very reminiscent of colonial starvation techniques used to force First Nations into signing Treaty.
“The Government of Canada has expended significant effort to orchestrate national processes without the meaningful input and participation of the Indigenous rights holders, who are the lone decision makers and granters of free, prior and informed consent. The AFN First Nations National Prosperity Table (and its COO predecessor), and Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) Critical Minerals Strategy and National Benefit-Sharing Framework are unacceptable to the Matawa Chiefs Council and the Matawa member First Nations.
“Instead, the Matawa Chiefs Council continue to maintain their unified position that the Matawa member First Nations are the Indigenous rights holders in our traditional territories and homelands. We call on the Government of Canada to establish a dedicated federal Crown table with the Matawa Chiefs Council to support the existing community-led processes and protocols to prepare for the development of the Ring of Fire Region and critical minerals throughout our territories. The best approach for all Matawa members and Canadians is a transparent, fair and reconciliatory process that will benefit all of us.
“It must be clear to all parties that the Matawa member First Nations are the sovereign lead communities in the development of the Ring of Fire.”
Chief Bruce Achneepineskum, Marten Falls First Nation states, “Matawa member First Nations are potentially the region that will be most significantly impacted by Canada’s Critical Mineral Strategy and should be guaranteed a lead position on any national or international discussions on Critical Minerals going forward. Canada is preparing for the emergence of an entirely new industry in Canada and North America. The extraction of chromite and ferrochrome processing that will be required to feed the steel demand in Southern Ontario, and the United States and its allies are important to the green energy transition. Canada must raise the bar on Indigenous participation in major resource development projects beyond the status quo of jobs and training targets, IBAs and procurement contracts to real revenue sharing, ownership and equity partnership agreements.”
Chief Sheri Taylor, Ginoogaming First Nation said, “Ginoogaming First Nation stands with the Chiefs, Councils and community members across Matawa First Nations that our communities will be decision-makers and direct any approach to deal with our lands and ensure that any renewable and non-renewable resources are addressed under the spirit and intent of the James Bay Treaty No. 9 (1905-06 and 1929-30). My ancestors signed the Treaty at Long Lake in 1906, and it is the position of Ginoogaming First Nation that under Treaty No. 9 – we have title to resources and we have resource equity that will benefit our families and future generations yet to come.”