There has been a strong reaction to the Federal Government's decision to initiate a mid-tier environmental assessment process for the most advanced project in Ontario's Ring of Fire. On October 17 the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency announced that Cliffs' chromite project would begin a comprehensive environmental assessment process.
First Nations and non-governmental organizations are calling for a more rigorous and participatory joint review panel process due to the complexity, scale, and potential impacts of this and other projects moving ahead in the region. First Nations insist that they be part of developing the process to review this and other major projects in their traditional territories. (See an earlier post for more on our posoition on the EA process for the Ring of Fire.)
Shortly after the announcment MiningWatch issued a press release that states our frustration with the federal government and how infuriated we are that the reasonable demands of First Nations and public interest groups are being ignored.
On October 21 the Matawa Chiefs issued a statement that they will not support any development in the region unless the government begins to meet its obligations to them.
“We will be forced to resort to alternative measures if Canada and Ontario continue to ignore the First Nations that are being impacted by Ring of Fire developments,” said Chief Roger Wesley of Constance Lake First Nation.
The Chiefs of Ontario provided their support to the Matawa First Nations on October 27. In their statement Regional Chief Angus Toulouse states that:
A respectful dialogue amongst First Nations, and Canada is the best way forward. We, First Nations and settler peoples alike, have duties and responsibilities to future generations, to the land, and to the waters – these considerations must inform our decisions and conduct.”
An editorial titled First Nations must be able to have a say by the Sudbury Star's Brian Macleod also supported the call for greater participation.
"It's bound to take longer to reach that level of involvement [for a review panel] than having experts produce reports after studies, submissions and public meetings.
But governments eager to press ahead could find a lawsuit in their way. Other initiatives, such as non-participation in the process, could also hinder development. If an EA without First Nations input is challenged in court, there is no saying what kind of delays could occur."