TORONTO — Two First Nation leaders were removed from Ontario’s legislative chamber on March 29 for shouting at Premier Doug Ford to meet with them over mining concerns in the province’s north.
Dozens of members of five First Nations descended upon Queen’s Park to voice their concerns over the Progressive Conservative government’s plans to expand mining operations on and around their lands in the so-called Ring of Fire region.
Those plans include the province’s intention to build a road to the Ring of Fire and mine the large swath of land in northern Ontario that is said to rich in critical minerals, which the government wants to use in its push to build electric vehicles.
“There will be no Ring of Fire!” incoming Neskantaga First Nation Chief Chris Moonias bellowed from one of the galleries in the legislative chamber.
Outgoing Neskantaga Chief Wayne Moonias said there will be no development on First Nation land without consent.
NDP Indigenous affairs critic Sol Mamakwa asked Ford in question period if the premier would meet with the First Nations leaders who showed up at the legislature.
Ford didn’t answer and deferred to Indigenous Affairs Minister Greg Rickford.
“We’re focused on building relationships under the leadership of this premier and we meet very regularly with Indigenous leaders from across this province,” Rickford said.
Mamakwa also asked if the government would commit to obtaining consent from the First Nations before making plans on their land.
Rickford said they are trying to build consensus.
Mamakwa slammed the government for their response and approach to dealing with First Nations.
“They do not care about First Nations’ rights,” Mamakwa said in the house.
The premier’s office said Ford is in constant contact with various chiefs from across the province and that the Indigenous leaders at the legislature Wednesday did not formally request to meet with him.
The province recently approved plans to build a road to the Ring of Fire region with the support of two First Nations.
But other First Nations are concerned that mining without their consultation will result in destruction of their land.
The Ring of Fire region, about 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, is said to be rich in critical minerals and the province has made long-standing promises to develop and mine the area.
© 2023 The Canadian Press
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