THUNDER BAY – First Nations leaders in northern Ontario are ramping up the political pressure on the provincial and federal governments, warning that the only way mining projects can proceed in the mineral-rich Ring of Fire is with their participation as full partners.
Chiefs from 10 Treaty 9 communities announced a lawsuit at Queen’s Park to fundamentally change the way resource and land management decisions are made in the region. The lawsuit deals with language and the understanding of a treaty signed in the early 1900s and has major implications for land decisions happening in the Ring of Fire right now.
The First Nations argue that they never gave up their rights to manage the lands and demand a co-jurisdiction regime where the province and Ottawa cannot move forward on land development without their approval.
The lawsuit is seeking $95 billion in damages for Treaty 9 First Nations and injunctions to prevent the two levels of government from regulating or enforcing regulations in the treaty lands without the consent of the plaintiffs. In case of disputes, it should go to an independent third party, similar to other international treaties.
“We hear so much about building mines and roads, but not without our community’s permission. There has been zero consultation on these projects,” said Chief Mark Bell of Aroland First Nation. “Our community is not against development, we are not against industry. We manage forests, we have mines, and we’ve been able to do that by giving our permission, working with industry, with other communities around us. Now we’re at the point where we say, ‘We sit with the government — we do this together or we don’t do it.'”