The federal conflict of interest commissioner has cleared interim Liberal leader Bob Rae to serve as a chief negotiator for Matawa First Nations on the Ring of Fire.
Rae told Postmedia News that he has received guidelines on how to proceed from the federal ethics watchdog Mary Dawson. While the former Ontario premier said Matawa has as of yet made no official offer, he is willing to take on the position.
During a mining conference hosted by the municipality of Greenstone on March 25, Rae told a gathered crowd in Thunder Bay that the Ring of Fire has to develop in the “right way.”
“I would appeal to everyone to recognize that the message is not that First Nations people want to stop development,” Rae said during his speech. “What I’m hearing is that people want development to happen in a way that sustains long-term prosperity of each and every person and community.”
Rae, who will return to being a regular MP once a new Liberal leader is selected, said a change of understanding is necessary from everyone involved in the development.
“Whether this potential is developed in the right way is up to us – I mean everyone,” Rae said. “It is going to require a deep deal of change of understanding and attitudes to persuade people that the Crown isn’t the only game in town, that companies are not the only game in town. That there are other players in the game.”
Rae added that time is of the essence when it comes to getting First Nations involvement in the mining development and encouraging First Nations participation in the Ring of Fire.
“The challenge we face is a big one, and we cannot waste any time,” Rae said. “We need to find ways to turn the potential into reality.