For Immediate Release
Thunder Bay, August 29, 2012 – The Ontario Mining Commission court handed down a decision on a case that had involved Neskantaga First Nation last week. The community had hoped the decision would prevent Cliffs Natural Resources from building a road or rail line across the Attawapiskat River to the proposed site of the company’s Ring of Fire (ROF) chromite mine. However, the Commission determined that their decision only concerns whether Canada Chrome should have to share the surface rights of the proposed easement with Cliffs Natural Resources and thus does not affect Neskantaga’s interest.
“The decision is both good and bad for us,” said Chief Peter Moonias of Neskantaga First Nation. “On one hand the Commission won’t make a decision about stopping the road, but on the other hand it has strongly acknowledged our First Nation’s right to be consulted.”
The Commission emphasized that its decision will not result in the grant of the road easement to Cliffs. It is only a decision that tries to determine whether there is a reason that Canada Chrome should not be compelled to share any surface rights with Cliffs. Once that decision is made, it will then fall to the Minister to decide if the easement should actually be granted.
Commission Decision Favours First Nation Right to Consultation
The decision states clearly that the Minister owes the First Nation of Neskantaga a duty of consultation in respect of the eventual decision on the easement (which is yet to happen). The Commissioners wrote:
“Mr. Kirchner’s logic properly applies to the Minister of Natural Resources’ decision to grant an easement and there has been information provided to this tribunal to satisfy it that a consultation process is a necessary component to that decision.”
The Commission also expressed sympathy for the position Neskantaga is in:
“While the tribunal sympathizes with Neskantaga’s argument that processes involving
decisions concerning its traditional territory are proceeding without recognition or
invocation of its constitutional right to consultation, the tribunal cannot behave
like the proverbial tail wagging the dog in sympathy.”
“We must be consulted in an appropriate manner, in our community, in our language. This decision has only strengthened our resolve to continue the fight to protect our land,” said Chief Moonias.
Although Neskantaga was not successful in this application, the Commission decided
not to order costs against Neskantaga, “..due to the important nature of the issues
raised by the Neskantaga application.”
The community’s lawyers are reviewing the decision, as there may be grounds for an appeal.
In the meantime, Neskantaga vows to prevent any construction of a road through traditional territories and over the Attawapiskat River until there is proper consultation with the community and until a Joint Review Panel Environmental Assessment takes place.
For more information contact:
Neskantaga First Nation Chief, Peter Moonias: 807 621-3611 or 807-479-2570
Neskantaga is a remote First Nation in Northern Ontario, accessible by air or winter ice road. Neskantaga, along with other First Nations that will be impacted by the proposed development in their territories, filed a court proceeding against the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency in November 2011 to force the Federal Government to move to a Joint Review Panel EA, rather than a Comprehensive Study EA, which is only a one-year, mostly paper driven process with little opportunity for proper consultation of First Nations. The case has not been heard yet. Resource companies continue to operate in the traditional territories of Neskantaga and other First Nations despite an eviction notice issued by several communities earlier in the summer.