Northern Chambers of Commerce challenge province’s Far North Act – by The Timmins Daily Press (September 10, 2011)

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“The Far North Act affects us collectively and
individually, and we want to ensure that it is
carried out in a responsible and inclusive manner
that respects all northern groups – be they
businesses, municipalities or First Nations.”
(Julie Denomme, vice-chair of the Greater Sudbury
Chamber of Commerce)

The province should reconsider how development is handled in Ontario’s Far North if it is to properly serve the region’s communities, First Nations, and business, according to the Chambers of Commerce of Timmins, Sudbury, North Bay and Sault Ste. Marie.

In a joint statement issued Friday, the four chambers agreed that the Far North Act, as passed by the Ontario government in October 2010, fails to consider the needs of those who are most affected by it.

The province’s stated goal of protecting “at least” 50% of the 225,000 square kilometres that make up the Far North was reached without consultation with the region’s First Nations who, through this legislation, are being forced to set aside portions of their land for protection.

While environmental protection and sustainability is an important concern, the government’s target of 50 per cent does not reflect the needs or desires of these communities, the statement said.

The government also estimates the land-use planning process will take 10 to 15 years, during which time many different types of development will be forbidden from taking place in the area. This comes at a point when the region is on the verge of seeing considerable growth through initiatives such as the proposed multi-billion-dollar Ring of Fire mining project.

“The impact of the Far North Act will be will felt throughout Northern Ontario, and while its ideas of sustainable development are important, it requires a more carefully considered approach,” said Christine Leclair, president of the Timmins Chamber of Commerce.

“The recommendations offered by the northeastern Chambers of Commerce provide some important points from which the province can examine a new position that will better serve all Northerners.”

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