Ring of Fire Minister not listening to First Nations – Blogpost by Shane Moffatt (Greenpeace Canada – July 21, 2012)


I recently had the privilege of attending a meeting with the Minister of Northern Development and Mines as an observer with Neskantaga First Nation. You can follow Neskantaga’s campaign to protect their rights here.

Talks were focused on proposed industrial developments in the so-called “Ring of Fire” in Northern Ontario. The “Ring of Fire” refers to a mineral rich area around McFaulds Lake, located over 1,000 kilometres north of Toronto in the heart of the boreal forest and in a one of the largest wetlands in the world. This also is smack in the middle of the traditional territories of Matawa First Nations, a Tribal Council of nine Ontario First Nations.

On May 9th, a giant US mining company (Cliffs Natural Resources) announced that they will go ahead with a $3.3 billion Ring of Fire project, which includes a chromite mine east of Webequie, a transportation route running south from the mine site and a ferrochrome processing plant in Sudbury.

The reaction from First Nations was swift and unequivocal – with Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Deputy Grand Chief Terry Waboose describing the announcement as a “classic example of development going ahead without adequate consultation, input and consent from our First Nations.” NAN is a political organization representing 49 First Nation communities across Treaty 9 and Treaty 5 areas of northern Ontario, including Matawa First Nations.

At every level First Nations are calling for a process that is grounded in the internationally recognized minimum standard of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). FPIC is articulated most clearly in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Canada has endorsed:

Article 32 (2). States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources.

Greenpeace endorses FPIC as an essential human rights standard in all developments and a key to ensuring social and environmental sustainability.

Indeed, the unified call from First Nations and their representative organizations, in Ontario and across Canada, for the standard of consent to be the basis of consultations in the Ring of Fire is remarkable:

Matawa First Nations have passed a Resolution calling for a pause in non consensual developments in their traditional territories and insist that they “will only proceed after their communities have participated in a full and thorough environmental review of all of the proposed mines, refinery, roads and infrastructure and after fully informing themselves and having negotiated appropriate terms and conditions that will protect the land, waters and sustainability of their way of life and then freely consent to the project”.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Greenpeace Canada website: http://www.greenpeace.org/canada/en/Blog/ring-of-fire-minister-not-listening-to-first-/blog/41488/