Ontario has made significant strides in economic development and environmental protection in the Far North with the passage of the Far North Act, 2010.
A first in Ontario history, First Nations’ approval of land use plans is now required by law. First Nations communities will identify and approve the areas in the Far North that require protection as well as those areas suitable for economic development.
These land use plans are key to develop the Far North, including the region known as the ‘Ring of Fire’ which contains one of the World’s largest deposits of chromite – a key ingredient in stainless steel and an economic opportunity for Far North communities.
The act provides a foundation for First Nations and Ontario to work together as partners on land use planning in the Far North as part of the Open Ontario plan to support the region’s economy and environment.
“With the Far North Act, we have accomplished something ambitious, something exceptional. Together we are entering a new era of social prosperity, economic certainty and environmental protection in the Far North. It is our responsibility as global citizens to make wise land use decisions for this vast and unique part of the province and the world. ”
– Linda Jeffrey, Minister of Natural Resources
The Far North makes up 42 per cent of the province’s land mass. The act support the protection of at least half of the Far North or approximately 225,000 square kilometres of the Far North in a network of protected areas.
The Far North serves as a globally significant carbon sink by absorbing approximately 12 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from the air each year.
Earlier this month, Ontario committed $10 million in new funding to support First Nations communities in the Far North in their efforts to develop land use plans. In July 2010, Ontario announced $2 million annually over three years for skills training related to community-based land use planning.
The Ministry of Natural Resources employs over 350 staff who work in five districts that cover portions of the Far North, including 30 conservation officers stationed in these districts
Support For Bill 191, Far North Act
“The Ontario Waterpower Association (OWA) is encouraged by the series of amendments to Bill 191 including provisions that would enable First Nations communities in the Far North to pursue opportunities in renewable energy and transmission projects prior to completing land use plans. Our industry remains committed to working with First Nations to help ensure Far North communities have the ability to realize the considerable social, economic and environmental benefits from the sustainable development of waterpower resources. ”
– Paul Norris, President, Ontario Waterpower Association
“WWF is pleased the Ontario government passed the Far North Act. We strongly support the Ontario government’s Far North vision of protecting at least 50 per cent of Ontario’s globally important boreal region, coupled with new economic prosperity for the people who live there – all led by community land use planning. ”
– Monte Hummel, President Emeritus, WWF-Canada
“We support the Far North Act and its intentions to conserve the boreal forest, plan for future development, and increase the role of Aboriginal people in decision-making within their traditional territories. This will be among the best northern land-use planning laws anywhere in Canada and will help conserve one of the world’s most important carbon storehouses, helping in the fight against climate change. ”
– Janet Sumner, Executive Director, CPAWS-Wildlands League
“Ontario’s largest conservation organizations strongly support the passage of the Far North Act. We support the Far North Act because it will ensure that First Nation community plans precede development and that the conservation of cultural and ecological values is pursued in conjunction with economic development. ”
– Boreal Opportunity — CPAWS-Wildlands League, WWF-Canada, ForestEthics, Environmental Defence and Ontario Nature
“We recently had the opportunity to serve on the Far North Science Advisory Panel and were pleased to submit our report earlier this year. We believe sustainable economic development that benefits First Nations can only occur if the science-based matters we addressed are embraced by legislation that recognizes the vulnerability of the natural systems in the Far North. We believe the Far North Act provides a framework that deals with the science issues that must be covered in a Far North Land Use Strategy and therefore we support the approval of Bill 191. ”
– Far North Science Advisory Panel
Dr. David Pearson, Laurentian University, Dr. John Gunn, Laurentian University, Dr. David Lean, University of Ottawa, Justina Ray, Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, John Riley, Nature Conservancy of Canada, Dr. Nigel Roulet, McGill University, Dr. Fiona Schmiegelow, University of Alberta, Dr. Sean Thomas, University of Toronto, Dr. Stephen Woodley, Parks Canada