Canada steps into ‘Ring of Fire’ debate with Ontario Premier Doug Ford – by Dayna Nadine Scott and David Peerla (The Conversation – February 17, 2020)

Dayna Nadine Scott is the York Research Chair in Environmental Law & Justice in the Green Economy, York University, Canada. This article is co-authored with David Peerla, advisor to Neskantaga First Nation.

The struggle over the mineral deposits in Ontario’s Ring of Fire has taken a surprising turn. With all eyes on British Columbia as events unfold in Unist’ot’en, the federal minister of environment and climate change has said the agency will establish a major regional assessment process for the Ring of Fire.

The region, 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, is said to hold one of the world’s richest chromite deposits, as well as nickel, copper and platinum. While some First Nations communities support the roads that would lead to the mines, other Indigenous people across the region are concerned they are losing control over the pace and scale of development in their homelands.

Those who support the development of the Ring of Fire will undoubtedly cast the federal decision as meddling by environmentalists and a disaffected First Nation. We see it as Canada finally stepping into the ring with Ontario Premier Doug Ford to restore some integrity to the environmental assessment process.

Canada steps into the ring with Ford

Really, the federal government had little choice. In August 2019, the Ford government threw out the regional framework agreement signed by the previous Liberal government and the Matawa nations in 2014. Instead it opted for a road-by-road, mine-by-mine approach to environmental assessment for projects that could open the region to more than one hundred years of mining.

The move all but invited litigation and Indigenous land defence actions. It made a mockery of the “next-generation” environmental assessments that were meant by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to restore Canadians’ trust in environmental regulation after the Harper years.

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