THUNDER BAY – June 17, 2015) – Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Harvey Yesno outlined plans for a strategic approach for infrastructure and community development in NAN territory at the opening of the 5th Annual Ontario Mining Forum in Thunder Bay today.
“NAN is currently developing a strategic and innovative strategy that will position our 49 First Nations as active partners in delivering and financing comprehensive regional transportation infrastructure across our territory in Ontario’s remote north,” said Grand Chief Harvey Yesno during his keynote address. “The development of transportation infrastructure will help our communities diversify their direct reliance on the mining economy while maximizing socio-economic benefits and providing new business opportunities that will help develop local economies and strengthen our Nation.”
Mining accounts for 20 per cent of Canada’s exports to global markets, according to a 2013 Conference Board of Canada report, with Northern Ontario home to the largest mineral mining industry in Canada. Instead of waiting for infrastructure plans developed by industry and government, NAN is moving forward with the identification of corridor options based on First Nation knowledge of local topography, sacred sites, cultural heritage, and environment and resource development activities. This new approach will provide certainty for First Nations and the business community.
NAN is also developing a strategy to lead the planning, development, procurement and implementation of a regional transportation infrastructure plan to maximize the social and economic benefits across NAN territory.
NAN is investigating the possibilities of ‘bundling’ for public-private partnership (PPP) financing of multiple transportation development projects to increase funding and financing options from the public and private sector sources. A ‘bundling’ strategy will combine many public infrastructure projects on shared Treaty territories together to maximize potential funding solutions by combining and coordinating several public infrastructure projects together to access new and more significant sources of financing.
Yesno also gave an overview of NAN’s Geo-Spatial Database Project and Content Management System, essential tools for community and regional planning that will build capacity and empowering First Nations to move forward in the resource-based economy. The project will allow all NAN First Nations and First Nation Councils access data related to infrastructure, resource development, environmental assessment and monitoring, as well as related health and socio-economic information. This will assist communities with planning at the local level and allow them to contribute to a collaborative, integrated approach to regional infrastructure planning.
Colonial and paternal approaches by government and industry have relegated many First Nation communities to unprecedented levels of poverty. Yesno outlined NAN’s new strategic direction where development will be First Nation-led and approached from the foundation of the Treaties.
“NAN First Nations have made it clear that they are the decision-makers about our lands, and the days are long gone when industry or government can exploit our land and the resources it contains. All development in our territory will be First Nation-led, and our First Nations must give free, prior and informed consent to any activities,” said Yesno. “There are many challenges ahead, but our First Nations are rising to the occasion and we look forward to building, maintaining and owning infrastructure, working with resource companies, and developing and expanding our local economies. We will create partnerships with industry, government and international organizations so that our people have the information and tools they need to plan and succeed.”
Bill 191: The Far North Act will relegate NAN territory to a welfare state and do nothing to create certainty for investment in the North, explained Yesno. Instead of flawed legislation, he called for the creation of a NAN-Ontario-Canada Infrastructure Build Fund to support regional infrastructure needs and energy capacity.
First Nations’ rights to control development in their traditional territories have been upheld by several Supreme Court of Canada decisions, sending a clear message that message that Aboriginal title must be recognized and respected by government and industry. NAN First Nations have made it clear that they will be active participants in any development in their traditional territories and will and not be limited to merely providing input on plans developed by industry and government without consultation.
NAN is comprised of 49 First Nations organized into seven First Nation Councils and independent First Nations across a traditional territory of approximately 338,000 square kilometers (210,000 square miles). NAN has a population of 45,000 people on-and-off reserve, and is one of the fastest growing sectors of the population in Canada.
For more information please contact: Michael Heintzman, Director of Communications – Nishnawbe Aski Nation (807) 625-4965 or cell (807) 621-2790 or by email [email protected]