Ontario makes big promises with critical minerals plans but First Nations advocates remain concerned

Attorneys and advocates for First Nations in northern Ontario say they’re involved the Ford authorities needs to press forward with mining growth within the Ring of Fireplace with out correctly involving First Nations or addressing their environmental issues. 

The federal government launched its new crucial minerals technique Thursday on the Lac Des Iles mine, about 125 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, Ont., aimed toward positioning Ontario as a supplier of uncooked supplies for objects reminiscent of good telephones and electrical car batteries. 

“International companies are looking for the supplies, experience and human energy wanted to construct applied sciences of the long run. And I am right here to say as soon as once more, look no additional,” Premier Doug Ford advised reporters on the election-style announcement. 

“This technique particulars how we’ll strengthen our provide chains, how we’ll appeal to new investments to our province, and the way we’ll be sure that the financial advantages are pretty shared with our Indigenous companions.”

The doc calls Ring of Fireplace growth a “transformative alternative for unlocking multi-generational growth of crucial minerals” and names constructing partnerships with Indigenous communities as one of many six pillars of its technique. 

Particularly, it touts financial alternatives for collaborating First Nations and highlights the Useful resource Income Sharing agreements the province has signed with tribal councils and governance our bodies reminiscent of Grand Council Treaty No. 3 – which it says have transferred greater than $93 million from mining tax revenues and royalties and forestry stumpage revenues to their signatories.

Lawyer and former Couchiching First Nation chief Sara Mainville stated her agency, Olthuis Kleer Townshend (OKT), has labored on Useful resource Income Sharing agreements, and he or she believes the province has accomplished good work with First Nations in locations like Timmins, Ont. 

Sara Mainville, of the regulation agency Otlhuis Kleer Townshend, questioned if the province is planning to disregard communities that at the moment oppose growth within the Ring of Fireplace. (CBC)

However she stated, First Nations in northern Ontario have issues concerning the environmental impression of Ring of Fireplace growth, and he or she’s involved that the province might not take note of these voices of warning.

“There is a explicit line within the technique that claims the federal government is supporting the priorities of particular person First Nations, which see potential Ring of Fireplace developments as alternatives for prosperity,” Mainville stated.

“So principally, they will simply work with the First Nations which have optimistic views of this growth. And so are they going to disregard the First Nations which might be involved and cautious of their method?”

The province, as a treaty companion, needs to be serving to to facilitate dispute decision between First Nations with completely different factors of view on growth, Mainville stated.

If it fails to correctly interact communities, it dangers authorized motion that might drive it into further session, and “that is simply the kind of uncertainty that business hates,” she added.

Dayna Scott, a professor at Osgoode Corridor Regulation College and the director of the Osgoode Environmental Justice and Sustainability Clinic – which gives analysis help to Neskantaga First Nation – stated she too has issues concerning the language of the technique, calling it a “change in tune.” 

Dayna Scott is an affiliate professor at Osgoode Corridor Regulation College and within the college of city and environmental change at York College. She stated if the province actually cares concerning the long-term financial advantages of mining the minerals within the Ring of Fireplace, it ought to make investments the time to get all affected First Nations on board. (Dayna Scott)

“Up ’til now, I have been listening to [the province] say issues like, ‘Ontario is doing nothing up there with out the overwhelming majority of First Nations on board.’ And in the present day, it appears to be like a bit of bit extra like an admission that, the truth is, Ontario is continuing within the face of widespread concern on the premise of the agreements they’ve with simply the 2 First Nation proponents,” stated Dayna Scott, referring to the First Nations behind two proposed roads main towards the Ring of Fireplace.

If the province actually cares concerning the long-term financial advantages of mining the minerals within the Ring of Fireplace, it ought to make investments the time to get all affected First Nations on board, she stated.

The province’s crucial minerals technique touts its $4.7 million Aboriginal Participation Fund (APF) to assist communities take part in session processes with the Crown. 

However a lawyer representing Attawapiskat First Nation, which, together with Neskantaga and Fort Albany, has declared a moratorium on Ring of Fireplace growth till plenty of situations are met – together with a regional impression evaluation that’s First Nations-led – stated that funding relies on a course of by which the Crown finally makes unilateral choices affecting First Nations.

That is an influence that her purchasers assert the Crown doesn’t legally possess, Kate Kempton stated.  

Kate Kempton is a companion with Olthuis Kleer Townshend LLP. She stated First Nations have to be companions in a course of to find out the impression on local weather change of mining within the Ring of Fireplace. (

“Notably in a spot on this planet the place the one individuals who’ve ever lived there and de facto have ever ruled and had administration of the lands there are First Nations, it’s insulting, paternalistic and fairly ridiculous to purport that the Crown … is aware of higher than the individuals who have at all times managed and intimately stay with the land,” she stated. 

Kempton acknowledged that mining sure minerals could possibly be instrumental in making a greener future.  

However she stated it could be a “pyrrhic victory” if injury to the peatlands within the Hudson Bay lowlands attributable to mining these minerals led to catastrophic local weather change.

The lowlands are one of many largest peatland complexes on this planet, storing giant quantities of carbon.

“What we do not know, what Ford does not know and I do not know in the present day is the extent to which huge scale or any mining up there’ll destroy the peatlands,” Kempton stated, including that First Nations have to be full collaborators in an investigation to seek out the solutions to these questions. 

Impala Canada, which owns and operates the Lac Des Iles mine close to Thunder Bay, Ont., is a serious producer of palladium, a uncommon earth mineral utilized in electrical batteries. (Adam Lach/Sandvik)

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