TORONTO — Three northern Ontario First Nations have issued a call for a moratorium on the development of access roads to the proposed Ring of Fire mining region and on development of the Ring of Fire itself.
Attawapiskat, Fort Albany and Neskantaga First Nations in the James Bay lowlands issued a statement April 6 that “declared a moratorium on any development in or to facilitate access to the Ring of Fire mining area.”
The three nations have been excluded as the Ontario government has proceeded with planning of a new roadway with Marten Falls First Nation and Webequie First Nation.
Marten Falls and Webequie are working with SNC-Lavalin and Dillon Consulting to undertake an environmental assessment (EA) on a proposed all-season road. A January release indicated that the EA report will be completed to meet both the federal and provincial environmental assessment requirements under a co-ordinated process following the Impact Assessment Act and Ontario Environmental Assessment Act.
The moratorium was to take effect April 1. The partners said they were acting on powers derived from Treaty No. 9 between First Nations and the Crown, “inherent” rights, Indigenous laws, other Canadian laws and international laws including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The statement said the First Nations’ “territories and rights stand to be seriously and permanently desecrated by massive scale mining in the Ring of Fire.”
They say the moratorium will stand until the governments of Canada and Ontario agree to a regional impact assessment (RIA) that is led by an Indigenous governing body with involvement from one of the three First Nations and other Indigenous groups.
The Attawapiskat, Fort Albany and Neskantaga nations are insisting that the terms of reference of the RIA be co-created and consented to by the Indigenous groups and that it “thoroughly investigates cumulative impacts and comprehensively governs through rules, criteria and plans what development, if any, may occur in the Ring of Fire, when, where and how.”
They say the federal government through the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada has “breached the honour of the Crown, all the laws stated above and the project of reconciliation and decolonization by acting with duplicity behind our backs in collaboration with Ontario, to render the RIA little but political puffery, with mere token First Nation ‘involvement,’ narrow in its focus and weak in its result.
“The risks are too great to allow the Crown to steamroll over our Mother Earth, our Rights and our future.”