The chief of Neskantaga First Nation wants a government-to-government agreement for decision-making on matters concerning the Ring of Fire. Chief Peter Moonias wants to see the Ontario government and First Nations leaders sitting at the same table, talking to each other and creating an agreement on how to make decisions for resource development in the north.
“That’s what I want to see. That’s what’s needed up there or else we’re going to forever be doing this fighting all the time,” said Moonias.
The province has an obligation to consult with each First Nation and Moonias said he hasn’t been talked to by anyone from the government or any of the mining companies. He said speaking to just a few of the First Nations won’t work because one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to the Ring of Fire. Moonias also said they want an environmental assessment done before development begins.
“It has to happen whether people like it or not. The impacts on that thing is so great. I don’t think very many people know how serious that mine is going to be, how big that mine is going to be,” he said.
Moonias strongly believes that consultation has to happen in order for the project to move forward and added there is no reason for friction between the northern communities and the government.
Minster of Northern Development and Mines Rick Bartolucci, in Thunder Bay Tuesday for a mining conference, agreed that consultation is key and they do plan to talk with each community individually.
“Community by community is a respectful way to move forward,” he said.
It is vital the government lives up to its duty to consult, the minister added, stressing he understands the significance of the process.
“We understand that through this consultation, we can bring real opportunity to our First Nation communities, the people of Northern Ontario and all of Ontario,” he said.
“That’s why we’re very, very focused on ensuring that the duty to consult is lived up to and we engage in a very proactive and positive way with our First Nation communities because we understand the incredible potential of the Ring of Fire.”
The province has reached a memorandum of cooperation with Webequie First Nation and continues to work with Marten Falls. Bartolucci said they hope to use the memorandum with Webequie as a model as they move forward in the consultation process.