Start of environmental process for Ring of Fire roads anger isolated First Nations – by Ian Ross (Northern Ontario Business – June 1, 2018)

Neskantaga, Eabemetoong out to stop provincial road-building process that excludes them

The signing of provincial agreements to get two proposed Ring of Fire roads out of the starting blocks has drawn the wrath of two area First Nation communities.

The Matawa First Nations communities of Neskantaga and Eabametoong call the agreements to initiate the provincial environmental assessment process (EA) to build roads into the Far North an “aggressive” move by Queen’s Park that sidesteps the government’s regional consensus-based approach to development.

The communities said the government’s “private deals” with its neighbours, Marten Falls and Webequie, “will only lead to further frustrations and delays” in getting roads built in the James Bay region. “This is a big step toward opening up the North,” said Neskantaga Chief Wayne Moonias in an interview. ”If the roads are going to go in and there’s no involvement from our communities then it’s going to be a challenge for the proponents or the government that’s going to try and take this project forward.”

Of the cluster of five communities closest to the Ring of Fire, Eabemetoong and Neskantaga have been bypassed in the road-planning process, announced last summer by the provincial government.

They’ve become staunch opponents of the government’s approach to work only with First Nations that are development-ready. The communities contend it will open up the area to “unplanned and uncontrolled” road development, threatening the environment and their way of life.

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