Northern Ontario’s First Nations Voice: http://wawataynews.ca/
Neskantaga Chief Peter Moonias says his community will continue to fight to slow down the Ring of Fire, just days after Ontario’s Mining Commissioner ruled against the First Nation on it’s case targeting a north-south road to the development.
Moonias also told Wawatay News that he remains committed to laying down his life to block a bridge being built over the Attawapiskat River.
“We will continue to fight, (with) whatever means we can,” Moonias said. “And I will stand by what I said before. I am not backing down on it, regardless of what Cliffs will do in there. I’m not backing down a bit. My people are prepared to do that. We are serious when we say something.”
The Ontario Mining Commissioner, Linda Kamerman, dismissed Neskantaga court case in a decision released Aug. 24. Neskantaga had gone to the mining court attempting to be named a landholder in a dispute over mining claims between Cliffs Natural Resources and Canada Chrome Corporation (CCC).
While Kamerman ruled that Neskantaga should not be a party in the case, she did state that the Ontario government has a duty to consult Neskantaga before giving approval for the Ring of Fire access road to be built.
“While the tribunal sympathizes with Neskantaga’s argument that processes involving decisions concerning its traditional territory are proceeding without recognition or invocation of its constitutional right to consultation, the tribunal … is not jurisdictionally empowered to consider wider issues,” Kamerman wrote.
Neskantaga’s legal council Matthew Kirchner said that having the commissioner acknowledge Ontario’s duty to consult was a positive outcome of the case.
Kirchner said the mining court case was just a “small element of the main process” of getting Neskantaga’s right to consultation and accommodation dealt with.
“The commissioner confirmed that consultation needs to exist,” Kirchner said “That duty applies here and it has got to be filled by the minister, with respect to the minister’s decision to approve the road.”
At issue in the mining court case was Cliffs’ plan to build an all-access road from its proposed mine site near Webequie to connect with highway 11 near Nakina. The route follows the top of an esker along which CCC has staked mining claims nearly the entire length of the proposed road.
Neskantaga argued that the First Nation holds claims to the land that supersede the mining claims.
Despite the ruling of the mining court, Neskantaga’s argument will likely come up again in further court actions at different levels of the legal system.
Kirchner said there are “lots of other avenues” for the First Nation to take its case.
Meanwhile the mining court case made clear the lack of consultation currently happening in regards to the Ring of Fire. Both Ontario and Cliffs admitted to the court that they have not yet consulted Neskantaga, despite having announced plans to build a $3.3 billion project including a chromite mine, access road and processing plant.
The mining commissioner noted that the issues raised by Neskantaga were important, and so she awarded that no costs would be payable by any party.
For Moonias and his First Nation, the mining court case was just another confirmation of something they have known for a long time – that the Ontario government is failing in its duty to consult First Nations on the Ring of Fire.
“I know the commissioners are very concerned with what’s happening with the First Nations territories,” Moonias said. “These people, the government and also this one company, are just going in there regardless of whether First Nations approve it. And I don’t think that’s right, in any standard.”
“I don’t like being stepped on,” Moonias added. “And I don’t think any community should be stepped on by any company, regardless of who they are. We’ve lived there since time immemorial. My ancestors are buried in those territorial lands. Other communities have the same rights as I have in that territory. And every one of us have a treaty right in that Treaty #9.”