NEWS RELEASE: Matawa First Nations End Litigation to Focus on Negotiated Solution in Ring of Fire

Thunder Bay, September 10, 2013 – The Matawa First Nations Chiefs have decided to end the Judicial Review litigation that challenged the type of environmental assessment process (EA) being used for the Cliffs Chromite Project. The case was scheduled to be heard by the Federal Court in mid-September. This summerthe Government of Ontario began talks with the Matawa First Nations on the Ring of Fire.

“We never wanted a judge to decide our future if we could avoid it,” noted Chief Sonny Gagnon of Aroland First Nation, “Like we always said, we want to determine our own solutions, by negotiation.”

“When we started the court case there was no negotiation table so we were pushed into a corner.There’s a forum for discussions with Ontario now and it’s going to look at the environmental assessment question as well as other issues,” said ChiefGagnon.

Talks with Ontario recently got underway with Bob Rae as the First Nations’ regional negotiator, and Frank Iacobucci as the Province’s negotiator. It is anticipated that project proponents and the Federal Government will also be involved. The environmental assessment process is one of the issues up for discussion. Other issues include regional infrastructure, environmental monitoring, revenue sharing, and community development.

“We’re focusing on negotiations,” said Chief Elizabeth Atlookan,of Eabametoong First Nation, “but let me be clear, this doesn’t mean everything’s fine. The negotiation process is starting, not ending. This is very far from over. But we’ve always said negotiation is our first priority, and it is.We’re approaching
this in good faith.”

“We are not happy with the current EA process, but what we have now is a way to change it, negotiated agreement. A court-ordered solution is never going to be as good as our own solution,” added Chief Gagnon.

For more information contact:

Chief Sonny Gagnon
Aroland First Nation
Cell: (807) 620-7195
Band Office: (807) 329-5970

Chief Elizabeth Atlookan
Eabametoong First Nation
Cell: (807) 620-1966
Band office: (807) 242-7221

Matawa First Nations Management (MFNM) is a Tribal Council that provides advisory and support services to nine member First Nations in Northern Ontario.

Matawa Chiefs Council is comprised of the Chiefs from the nine member First Nations of MFNM.

Ring of Fire (ROF) is the name given to a mineral rich area situated in First Nation traditional territories in Northern Ontario. The proposed developments, Black Thor and Eagles Nest, are on the Muketi River. All nine Matawa member First Nations will be impacted by the ROF development and/or associated infrastructure. Matawa First Nations agree that their people must receive maximum benefit from resource development in their territories, and that the development must be sustainable, responsible, and undergo an appropriate environmental assessment.

Environmental Assessment Process. The proposed infrastructure for the Cliffs Chromite project will cross 100 bodies of water and 4 major rivers in a sensitive ecosystem located in the James Bay Lowlands. The Lowlands are part of the Boreal Forest, which contains the largest series of intact wetlands in the world and sequester 25 years of the world’s carbon emissions.

For two years the First Nation Chiefs have been demanding that the EA process for the ROF be changed from the current Comprehensive Study EA,to a Joint Review Panel EA, or a negotiated EA process. The Comprehensive Study EA process does not allow for proper consultation with First Nations, has an inappropriate timeline, does not consider the accumulated impacts of more than one mine, and is mostly a paper driven process.

Judicial Review. In November 2011 several Matawa First Nations filed a Judicial Review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s decision to use the Comprehensive Study EA. Earlier this year Cliffs and the Government of Canada lost a motion to have Matawa evidence kept out of the court proceeding. The Chiefs ended their litigation in order to negotiate a better EA process with Ontario at the new ROF Regional Strategy Negotiation Table.

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