The Tories are dissolving the Ring of Fire agreement. So what comes next? – by Jon Thompson ( – September 3, 2019) speaks with people close to the issue about why it’s proved so divisive — and what the future may hold for Indigenous-government relations in the north

Greg Rickford, Ontario’s minister of northern development, mines and energy, and Indigenous affairs, last week issued a 90-day notice to Matawa chiefs that the province is dissolving the Ring of Fire regional-framework agreement.

“Frankly, to this point, it’s been a little complicated and lengthy,” Rickford told reporters in Sault Ste. Marie. “It has not necessarily met the timelines that the market should expect a project to come on board.”

The Ring of Fire, a large mineral belt discovered in 2007, comprises 5,000 square kilometres in the James Bay lowlands. According to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, establishing a mining development there could create as many as 5,500 jobs and more than $9 billion in economic activity over the course of a decade.

But as a result of slumping mineral markets, a cooling of foreign interest, slow-to-develop transportation infrastructure, and ongoing First Nations consultation delays, extraction has yet to begin.

In 2014 the Liberals under Kathleen Wynne reached a regional-framework agreement with Matawa Tribal Council, which is made up of nine First Nations. The framework, negotiated by retired Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci on behalf of the province and former premier Bob Rae on behalf of Matawa, set the terms for how future projects related to the proposed Ring of Fire would be finalized. It was intended to serve as a model for Crown-Indigenous relations on major resource-extraction projects.

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