Greg Rickford took considerable heat from leaders of two remote First Nation communities that feel they’ve been left out of the loop in discussions to industrialize the Far North.
At a Nov.21 assembly of Ontario Chiefs, Neskantaga’s Wayne Moonias and Eabemetoong’s Elizabeth Atlookan scolded the minister of energy, mines, northern development and Indigenous affairs for isolating them from talks surrounding the construction of roads into the Ring of Fire.
Rickford’s remarks about building a “corridor for prosperity” with road and hydro corridors to spin off regional economic development opportunities raised the anger of Atlookan, who felt the government isn’t taking into account her community’s concerns about the impact of mining on the land. “You can’t say here it’s not about the Ring of Fire. Ultimately, that’s what this (north-south) road is all about,” she said.
”It’s not so much about us. It’s about prosperity. You’re cutting red tape so you can move this along real quickly.” The communities are two of the five First Nations closest to the mineral deposits in the James Bay region. They are part of the nine member communities in the Matawa First Nations tribal council.
The two chiefs accused Rickford of repeatedly dodging them and being uncommunicative since the June provincial election. They claim his staff are meeting only with those communities that support natural resource development.