The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.
Calling it a landmark agreement, Bob Rae said Matawa First Nations chiefs have inked a deal with the province that ensures their communities benefit from development of the Ring of Fire.
In a telephone interview, Rae, the negotiator for the nine Matawa leaders, said the agreement is a game-changer for aboriginal people.
Almost a year after he first met with the chiefs in Thunder Bay, Rae announced the Matawa and the Government of Ontario on Wednesday signed a regional framework agreement that gives natives in the area a stake in how the Ring of Fire will be developed.
The Ring of Fire, located in northwestern Ontario, contains billions in mineral deposits. Advocates believe the Ring could create thousands of jobs in Ontario. Sudbury, as a mining supply and centre, would also benefit from developing the area, they say.
One company, Cliffs Natural Resources, had planned to ship chromite from the Ring to a new smelter in Capreol. The company has put those plans on hold because of a lack of agreement on a number of issues, including with first nations and on infrastructure.
Rae said the deal with Matawa First Nations took longer to negotiate than he wanted.
The former Ontario New Democrat premier didn’t take up his duties as lead negotiator for the Matawa chiefs until August of last year, after stepping down as interim leader of the federal Liberals.
In July 2013, Premier Kathleen Wynne appointed former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci as lead negotiator for the province.
The framework agreement outlines ways in which the nine first nations will work with the province on the environmental assessment process and monitoring, resource revenue sharing, and developing regional and community infrastructure.
The agreement is also symbolic, laying out a framework of “respect and deep consultation,” and demonstrates the province’s commitment to negotiate with first nations in a different way, said Rae.
The fact the agreement takes a regional approach is a significant change in the relationship between first nations and governments, said Rae. “That in itself makes all the difference.”
Few details of the agreement were released, other than that it was signed by the chiefs on behalf of their communities and Michael Gravelle, minister of Northern Development and Mines.
Gravelle will speak today to the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, where he is expected provide an update on the province’s involvement in the Ring of Fire.
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