Michael Gravelle has tested the waters to see if Northern First Nation communities wanted to join forces to manage areas covered in the Far North Act.
The Minister of Natural Resources met with representatives from Northern First Nation communities at the Travelodge Hotel on Wednesday. The group spent the day discussing a potential joint body in regards to the Far North Act where First Nation communities would have more input on policies.
The Far North Act, which was passed in 2010, represents 42 per cent of Ontario or 450,000 square kilometres and applies to public lands in the Far North but not to First Nation communities or to federal, private or municipal lands.
In order to manage development plans better, the province implemented a community based land use initiative with the intent to have direct input from First Nation communities.
Gravelle said the joint body, made up of equal membership of First Nation and government officials, would be able to coordinate the Far North Land Use Planning process together.
There has been some success already with five land use plans already in place and several others in the middle of negotiations.
He said the decision to have these discussions followed an amendment in the original legislation.
“(First Nation communities) have made it clear right off the top that they did not like the process by which the (the Far North Act) went through,” Gravelle said.
“We’re engaged in a land use planning process that basically asks the First Nations how much of their traditional territory they want to see protected from an ecological or economical point of view and how much they want to see developed.
“What this is ultimately doing is providing clarity for businesses and industry but also respects the First Nations need to determine what parts of their land they want to see protected from future development.”
Gravelle said it’s all in the hands of the First Nation communities if they want to move forward with this plan.
“If they feel that a join body that they can put input into the policies implications, as well as implementation and coordination for the Far North Land Use Planning process is something they want to move forward on then we want to do that with them,” he said.
“I feel good about the discussions today. We will determine if we are going to move on to another discussion and I’m optimistic that we will.”