The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.
TIMMINS – Inclusion, expansion and understanding were the central theme of the Nishnawbe Aski Development Fund’s Mining Ready Summit. The keynote speaker continued to convey the point.
Former Ontario premier Bob Rae spoke about the need to include First Nations in all aspects of development, increasing accessibility to remote Northern communities and spreading the potential wealth found in the Ring of Fire development.
“I think that the current model is ready to be put into action,” said Rae in an interview following his speech. “I think that building sustainability into the approach that companies are taking, I think that we need to look at sustaining communities and sustainability is about the people as well as the environment.”
Rae was referring to the remote First Nations communities like Attawapiskat, Martin River and Moose Factory; communities which have close proximity to current and future economic development.
“We need to recognize that development needs to happen,” said Rae. “There will be a lot more resource extraction over the next half century, but we need to be sure that it is done in a way that benefits the local communities as well as the broader economic picture. It really needs to do both and that is what we are trying to engage on.”
Developing fair land and resource sharing agreements that allow both companies, communities and Treaty Nine First Nations to prosper is the main concern for Rae in his role as a FN lobbyist and spokesperson.
“We have a lot of dialogue going on in the communities in terms of creating the framework of an agreement,” said Rae. “We want to push that real discussion forward, that discussion on the framework and get moving on it, make some good progress and do everything we can to get that done.”
During his speech, Rae pointed out the success of First Nations in treaty-less provinces like British Columbia and Quebec have seen due to the lack of “binding treaty legislation.”
“I think that it is a simple reality that other provinces have leapfrogged ahead with the types of partnerships that they have with industry,” said Rae. “They have done this because they had to, and because Ontario has had the treaties and, federally, we have had the Indian Act, there is kind of a sense of ‘well those structures have worked and there is no sense in changing them.’”
Rae maintained that the idea that the system works isn’t the same on the other side of the legislative fence.
“I think within the First Nations communities, there is a sense that those structures need to change,” he said. “They don’t allow for enough partnerships and they don’t allow for enough real ability of First Nations to control and participate in the creation of wealth and that is something that is within all of our best interests to see happen.”
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