THUNDER BAY — Peter Moonias says he’s feeling optimistic after a meeting with the federal government. Moonias, chief of Neskantaga First Nation, and other Matawa leaders met with lead Ring of Fire federal Minister Tony Clement in Thunder Bay Wednesday at the Travelodge Airlane.
Moonias made headlines last year when he said he was willing to die in order to stop development in the Ring of Fire unless the provincial government started meaningful consultation with First Nations.
But if industry shows a willingness to work together, so can the communities, he said. He added that the first step is to get the federal and provincial governments to understand that First Nations are treaty partners not stakeholders.
Another brief news clip from February 21, 2013: http://www.tbnewswatch.com/Video/26653/Clement-Matawa
“I hope the minister understood. He seemed very positive about it,” Moonias said. The environmental assessment process has been a major sticking point for communities. Moonias said they were just mailed a package to review and respond to, which is unacceptable.
“When we told (Clement) nobody came to see us about it he was surprised,” Moonias said. Moonias added that Clement talked about economic development and capacity building in Matawa communities. Those are all things the chief sees as positives.
The fact that Clement initiated the meeting, is also seen as a good sign.
“I’m encouraged by that and I hope it continues to stay like that.”
Moonias said some of his fears have been eased, but hopes that more meetings happen in the future.
“Yes and then again no but time will tell.”
Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Harvey Yesno met with Clement on Tuesday. He said there wasn’t a lot of time but, like Matawa, NAN stressed the treaty relationship.
“We believe it’s time to restore or restart a new relationship with the federal government,” Yesno said.
Yesno hopes that the federal government will give Clement a better mandate to make decisions on the Ring of Fire, unlike the provincial Ring of Fire secretariat, which has needed other ministry approval in order to move things along.
“Decision making is very slow,” he said.
Clement will also need resources Yesno said. Something that First Nations will have to wait and see in the coming weeks.