WEBEQUIE FIRST NATION (WFN) POSITION PAPER [Ring of Fire] – November 23, 2011

COMMUNITY POSITION STATEMENT

Webequie First Nation (WFN) re-affirms that it has a right to determine its own community-based processes, community-driven initiatives, and community-led negotiations with commercial entities as well as with the different levels of government as its relates to the traditional, historic, ancestral, and customary areas of Webequie First Nation. This right is supported by the Canadian legal framework, the WFN Consultation Protocol, the WFN Lands & Resource Policy, and WFN Members.

It is well known that any project activities within a First Nation’s traditional area will require direct engagement and consultation with that First Nation
community. The following quotes from Chiefs of Ontario, Nishnawbe Aski Nation, and Matawa reinforce this point:

“It is the prerogative of the First Nation government to determine their consultation processes and the Crown should be responsive to the process requirements of the First Nation”(1)

“The First Nation community is the primary basis of authority in the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, and it is the First Nation potentially most directly affected by a proposed project who must be consulted as early as possible.”(2)

“To develop early relationships, Matawa First Nations expect the proponent to make initial contact with the First Nation with their proposed activity and interest in the area.”(3)

In order to clarify the above statements, “First Nation government”, “First Nation”, “the First Nation community” means local government as established by an Indian Band as defined in the Indian Act.

It is also generally understood by the Ontario ministries and federal agencies that when dealing with project developments, the primary contact should be the directly impacted First Nation. Furthermore, it is clearly understood that no third party or external organization can effectively represent a First Nation related to a community’s internal processes, nor can an outside party legally bind any First Nation to an agreement.

(1) Chiefs of Ontario “Consultation and Accommodation Toolkit for First Nations”
(2) NAN “Consultation Policy”
(3) Matawa “Interim Minerals Measures Process”

WFN COMMUNITY POSITION ON THE RING OF FIRE DISCOVERY AREA

It is also known that the two most impacted First Nation communities for any potential mine sites within the Ring of Fire are Webequie First Nation (WFN) and Marten Falls First Nation (MFFN), primarily due to overlapping traditional landuse practices.

Like the De Beer’s Victor project and with Goldcorp’s Musslewhite operations, the primary impacted First Nation communities were the legal signatories to an Impact & Benefits Agreement (IBA) because no outside third party could legally bind First Nations to agreements.

The primary reason the impacted First Nations must be dealt with directly in
relation to issues with the Ring of Fire proposed mine sites is due to the fact that the First Nation Chief and Council has to engage with its own membership with regards to disruption on their traditional activities and effects on local treaty rights. They are also responsible for soliciting feedback on rolling drafts on any agreement, since it will be the whole community (all the membership) who has to ratify (vote) on any final IBA negotiated by Chief and Council.

Another equally important reason for engaging and consulting directly with the two First Nations (WFN & MFFN) is to fulfill statutory requirements. The Ontario Mining Act and the Ontario Far North Act require any new mining company that wants a “license to operate” a mine in remote Ontario to obtain an approved community-based landuse plan for any new mines. These community-based landuse plans will be designed and driven by the two primary First Nations in the Ring of Fire, where the mineral discoveries are located and where any potential new mine will need regulatory approvals. The two main community-based landuse plans that any mining company will need in order to obtain a license to operate within the Ring of Fire will be Webequie First Nation and Marten Falls First Nation.

Webequie First Nation has initiated direct discussions with Marten Falls First Nation and has signed a Relationship Protocol. This Relationship Protocol was partly based on discussions from a Memorandum of Agreement that was signed outlining the 10 issues that were identified by the two signatory First Nations (WFN & MFFN). The Relationship Protocol ‘s intent is to deal with our respective local community matters and other pertinent issues related to the proposed Ring of Fire mine sites.

WFN COMMUNITY POSITION ON REGIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE

The “Ring of Fire” mineral discoveries bring enormous challenges and
opportunities to the First Nations who will be directly impacted by both the
proposed mine sites, as well as the regional infrastructure requirements for the mine sites’ operations within the Ring of Fire.

It is understood that there will be parallel discussions with First Nations who will have to be engaged and consulted for any regional infrastructure planning and developments. However, this should not detract from the local decision making authorities of the two First Nations who will be impacted by the actual potential mine sites (WFN & MFFN).

It is Webequie First Nation’s understanding that the Statement of Relationship signed on March 9th 2010 by the Chiefs of Webequie FN, Neskantaga FN, Nibinamik FN, and Eabametoong FN at the PDAC Convention was the beginning of the recognition of the need for a regional discussion as well as the expression of the “wish to negotiate protocols and agreements among ourselves”.

On July 27th, 2011, a Matawa Chiefs’ Council Resolution (2011/#06) was passed that supported, in principle, the road access development to meet the four remote First Nations’ infrastructure needs. On August 31st, 2011, the four First Nations signed an East-West Corridor Collaborative Agreement to work on a coordinated and collaborative approach to infrastructure development within their respective traditional lands. The East-West Corridor Collaboration is a community-based collaborative process to review how communities can benefit from regional infrastructure development as well as coordinate each others’ community-based landuse planning.

Webequie First Nation supports these regional discussions and other First
Nations that see potential community benefits or are concerned with the Ring of Fire developments. As one of WFN’s local Elders says, “All roads lead to Webequie First Nation….so we must focus beyond the Mine Sites developments and look at the larger picture and help others.”

WFN COMMUNITY POSITION ON INDUSTRY PROTOCOL

Most Canadian First Nations who have resource-based activities in their
traditional areas have some type of agreement in place, based on the level of
activity and scale of the project. Even among the Matawa individual First Nations, localized agreements have been signed between the community and the company. These agreements did not involve an outside organization and, hence, the signatories were between the Chief/Council of the First Nation and the President/CEO of the company.

Webequie First Nation has built local capacity over the past three years to secure some benefits for its membership through ongoing community strategic planning, negotiating exploration agreements, creating business opportunities, and finding employment for its membership. There are exploration companies (other than Noront and Cliffs) in the Ring of Fire that Webequie First Nation has commercial interests with, and that need to be balanced with the community’s traditional interests. As many First Nation leaders know, these localized interests are dealt with through a community-specific process and resolved through Chief and Council.

It is Webequie First Nation’s position that any industry-related activity within its traditional area is the business of Webequie First Nation and not the business of outside organizations. Resource-based companies or service companies that want to provide opportunities to Webequie First Nation within its traditional area should be directed to Webequie First Nation.

WFN COMMUNITY POSITION ON GOVERNMENT PROTOCOL

Webequie First Nation has had historical issues with governments that have not been properly resolved in the past. These historical issues as well as new, emerging ones have added more layers of complexities to our relationship with the Ontario government. There is a stated desire by Ontario ministries to directly engage with Webequie First Nation and to continue to work on efforts to resolve historical issues and deal with emerging challenges associated with the Ring of Fire activities and Landuse Planning intentions.

Webequie First Nation previously signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with Ministry of Northern Development and Mines and is planning to update this agreement in the near future. There is a stated interest by the Ministry of Natural Resources to be part of the integrated framework of understanding.

Webequie First Nation’s position is to continue its direct discussions with MNDM and MNR, but it will also take into consideration NAN and Matawa positions related to these ministries’ current and future initiatives.

WFN COMMUNITY POSITION ON MATAWA

Webequie First Nation views Matawa as a supportive institution but it does not determine the direction of WFN nor speaks for WFN on issues and opportunities.

There are several Matawa resolutions that require re-affirmation:

1) Acceptance of the Interim Mineral Measures Process (IMMP)

“Be It Further Resolved that Matawa IMMP will not prejudice any existing
or future community initiatives with the Mineral Sector; and

Be It Further Resolved that First Nations will continue to have their own
consent process”

2) Matawa Mineral Technical Committee Role

“Further be it Resolved That this Matawa Mineral Technical Committee
process does not prejudice the community consultation processes”

3) Proposal for Mineral Sector Specialists:

“Be It Further Resolved that Matawa Mineral Exploration and Mining
Specialist application will not prejudice any existing or future community
initiatives with the Mineral Sector”

4) Resource Development Resolution

“And Whereas nothing in these agreements prejudices existing
agreements participating First Nations have with external parties”

“And Whereas the Participating First Nations recognize that each First
Nation all retain its right of autonomy and community decision making
process”

5) Internal Coordinated Approach Resolution

“And Whereas nothing in these agreements prejudices existing
agreements participating First Nations have with external parties”

“And Whereas the Participating First Nations recognize that each
Participating First Nation all retain its right of autonomy and community
decision making process”

Comments are closed.