First Nation land decision will affect Ring of Fire: NAN (CBC News Thunder Bay – June 27, 2014)

Nishnawbe Aski Nation says a landmark court decision will significantly impact development of the Ring of Fire. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled Thursday that a BC First Nation has control over 1,700 square kilometres in its traditional territory.

NAN Grand Chief Harvey Yesno said the ruling sends a strong message that the government must recognize and respect Aboriginal title and deal honourably with First Nations.

“There’s a number of First Nations that are in land claims negotiations,” he said. “I’m hoping it’ll be a positive impact to settle or accelerate.” That includes the much-talked-about chromite-rich mining area known as the Ring of Fire, located in the James Bay Lowlands of northern Ontario.

“There’s no question that this ruling is creating, I think, a reason … to enhance the positions that First Nations have been taking,” Yesno said. Northern Development and Mines minister Michael Gravelle said the province will review the ruling.

But he noted there’s a significant difference between BC and Ontario because, unlike the Ring of Fire, the BC land in question doesn’t fall under a treaty.

“Regardless, I certainly recognize — as does our government — how important it is to meet, if not exceed, our duty to consult, [and] work as closely as we can with our First Nations … and our Aboriginal peoples on all major projects.”

Still, Ontario might need to do more than consult, as the Supreme Court decision places a greater burden on governments to get consent — or justify — development on Aboriginal land.

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