Webequie says its still open for Ring of Fire business – by Shawn Bell (Wawatay News – November 24, 2011)


This video was posted on You Tube by the Matawa First Nations on November 7, 2011. It is about the Ring Of Fire development and effects on the communities of the Matawa First Nations in Northwestern Ontario. While this You Tube posting is not connected to the Webequie article, it does provide some background content and puts the recent Matawa political opposition to the Ring of Fire in perspective. – Stan Sudol

Wawatay News is Northern Ontario’s First Nation Voice with offices in Sioux Lookout, Timmins and Thunder Bay.

Rifts in the Matawa First Nations’ opposition to mining in the Ring of Fire were on display Nov. 23 as Webequie First Nation held a press conference to announce that Matawa does not speak for the people the community.

Webequie Chief Cornelius Wabasse presented a community position statement calling for companies interested in developing the Ring of Fire to negotiate directly with the community, not through organizations such as Matawa.

“Matawa Tribal Council is not a decision-making authority for Webequie First Nation, Wabasse said. “Webequie will determine our own community-led process to guide industry, government and commercial groups through the process of working collaboratively.”

Wabasse emphasized that his community does not support Matawa’s call for a stop-work order on the Ring of Fire, saying Webequie is ready to benefit from the development in the region.

“Webequie First Nation has built tremendous community capacity over the past three years to become investment-ready and prepare to take advantage of emerging socio-economic benefits in the Ring of Fire,” Wabasse said in a statement.

Matawa, which represents nine northern Ontario First Nations, quickly issued a statement following the Webequie press conference saying it supports Webequie’s call for more autonomy over development in the region.

“Matawa First Nations support and respect all of its member communities and their governance and decision making process,” the statement reads. “Each Matawa First Nation is autonomous. Government and industry need to consult with each First Nation according to their community protocols.”

Matawa recently threatened to halt development in Ring of Fire because it’s not happy with the  environmental assessment set out for Cliffs Resources’ chromite mine. Matawa is calling for a Joint Review Panel assessment of the project instead of the current comprehensive study. That call is now before the courts after Matawa initiated a judicial review.

Both Cliffs’ chromite mine and Noront’s Eagles Nest mine are currently undergoing comprehensive study environmental studies.

But Webequie’s community position on the Ring of Fire said there are many other companies operating in the region and that the community of Webequie has “commercial interests” with certain exploration companies in the Ring of Fire.