New Grand Chief stepping back from Ring of Fire – by Alan S. Hale (Timmins Daily Press – August 18, 2015)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

MOOSONEE – The Grand Chief-elect of the Mushkegowuk Council, Jonathan Solomon, is vowing to consult with the people and chiefs of the council’s member communities more than his predecessor did.

That is likely to please those who thought Grand Chief Lawrence Martin made too many promises and announcements on important issues without seeking enough input from the communities. It is not likely to please proponents of the already stalled Ring of Fire development.

Back in February, Martin stated his support for a proposed energy and railway corridor running across Mushkegowuk territory from Moosonee to the chromite mining development located 600 kilometres northwest of Timmins.

According to Solomon, that announcement “blindsided” many people within the Mushkegowuk Council, and that under his leadership, they would be stepping back from that commitment.

“I need to step back and review everything,” said Solomon. “I was involved as a facilitator during (the consultation) process and from that report, the overwhelming concern is the environment. Business opportunities were never the priority of the people we talked to. The questions were always: ‘What is this going to do to our water? What it this going to do to our land? What is this going to the animals?’

“People were totally against how the Grand Chief (Martin) — for whatever reason — announced that we are going to build the Ring of Fire, build a railroad and bring in transmission lines.”

Mushkegowuk cannot consider supporting a project like the energy/railway corridor until all the questions about the Ring of Fire’s environmental impact are answered, said Solomon.

As the new Grand Chief, Solomon said he will avoid making big promises without the input and support of communities and chiefs.

“I made a pledge that once I became Grand Chief, it wouldn’t go to my head. I won’t say, ‘I can do whatever I want to do.’ I have been put in this office because people heard me say, ‘I need to get my mandate from you,’” said the Grand Chief.

“There were chiefs who were questioning what was going on (under Martin’s leadership), and I think we need to communicate more. We need to inform the people of what our thoughts are as individuals. That’s the thing that will change.”

The Ring of Fire and the questions around its future development are not the Grand Chief’s biggest priority, however.

For the rest of this article, click here: