Matawa First Nations’ efforts to slow down development of the Ring of Fire and advance First Nation input over mining has received support from First Nations across northern Ontario. Both the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) and Mushkegowuk Council last week released statements of support for Matawa’s stance.
Mushkegowuk Grand Chief Stan Louttit said offers of “small” Impact Benefit Agreements made by industry to affected First Nations are not enough, and that First Nation voices need to be heard when it comes to how and when mining happens in northern Ontario.
“We too are very frustrated with how the project is being aggressively advanced with little or no regard for First Nations rights and jurisdictions,” Louttit said. The Grand Chief said that Mushkegowuk First Nations are prepared to engage in direct action against Ring of Fire companies in support of the Matawa First Nations.
“We are ready to stand with our brothers and sisters to be heard,” Louttit said. “We have tried, but no one has listened. It is unfortunate indeed that we have to resort to this type of action.”
Louttit’s comments come one month after Neskantaga First Nation Chief Peter Moonias said he would block a bridge from being built over the Attawapiskat River with his life.
NAN chiefs also passed a resolution on June 25 confirming their support for Matawa’s call for a moratorium and mining company eviction in the Ring of Fire.
In its resolution, NAN demanded that Canada, Ontario and industry engage the Matawa First Nations in a “process that is grounded on their rights to provide consent prior to any further development in the area known as the Ring of Fire.”
The NAN motion was moved by Wahgoshig First Nation Chief David Babin and seconded by Fort Albany First Nation Chief Andrew Solomon.
Solomon said governments and industry continue to fail to recognize the authority of First Nations when it comes to the lands and waters of northern Ontario.
“We will someday be forced to exercise our given authority, jurisdiction and powers over our lands and waters,” Solomon said.
Six Matawa First Nations announced on June 25 that they will issue eviction notices to all mining companies with exploration and development camps on Matawa First Nations’ traditional territory.
“Cliffs, Noront and all the other mining companies will have 30 days from the time the eviction notice is served to pack up their bags and leave our lands,” said Aroland Chief Sonny Gagnon on June 28.
Meanwhile Neskantaga is in Toronto on July 5, taking an appeal to the Ontario Mining Commissioner to make the First Nation a party to a dispute over land involved in the Ring of Fire access road.
Louttit said the escalating conflict over the mining developments relates to the fact that industry and government are ignoring First Nation input on the Ring of Fire.
Louttit said the list of First Nation demands being ignored includes the call for a Joint Review panel for the Environmental Assessment process; the request for the ferrochrome processing facility to be located on Matawa traditional land; the request for capacity funding to allow First Nations to actively participate in the assessment process; and the demand that Noront and Cliffs sign agreements to deal with First Nation issues.