NAN committed to Ring of Fire, says Grand Chief Yesno – by Carl Clutchey (Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal – June 19, 2015)

Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.

That was then, this is now. Officials with Nishnawbe Ask Nation says mining and other developments in the Ontario’s far North won’t take place unless First Nations are the decision-makers at the forefront of that development.

“The days are long gone when industry or government can exploit our land and the resources it contains,” NAN Grand Chief Harvey Yesno declared in an address to the Ontario Mining Forum held in Thunder Bay on Wednesday.

As proof that NAN is determined to lead in the Ring of Fire development in the lower James Bay area, Yesno said the identification of key transportation corridors will be 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,” said Yesno. The lone main mining player in the Ring of Fire is Toronto-based Noront Resources. Noront is calling for an east-west transportation corridor that would link Pickle Lake to the main mining site, which is about 550 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay.

Yesno’s speech coincided with the announcement of a new political accord between the province and the Chiefs of Ontario.

The accord, to be signed by Ontario regional chief Isadore Day and premier Kathleen Wynne, recognizes First Nations have an inherent right to self-government and commits the province and the Chiefs of Ontario to work together on shared priorities that improve the lives of First Nations people.

A date for the signing has yet to be set.

The release added that Aboriginal treaties are legally binding agreements that set out rights and responsibilities and guide relationships among First Nations and the federal and provincial governments.

In Ontario, there are 46 Aboriginal treaties and land purchases made by the Crown that date as far back as 1781.

Yesno said NAN remains critical of the province’s Far North Act, which he believes will turn NAN territories into a welfare state, where they can do nothing to create certainty for investment in the North.

This is one of the reasons NAN has been advocating for a NAN-Ontario-Canada Infrastructure Build Fund to support regional infrastructure needs and energy capacity.

The province has said the act is a compromise between development and a need to establish protected areas.

Critics, including businesses and First Nation groups, have said the act effectively makes half of the far North’s vastness off-limits to mining and other development.

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