Dr. Justina Ray and Dr. Cheryl Chetkiewicz are scientists with Wildlife Conservation Society Canada who have worked in the far north in Ontario 25 years collectively.
The current wave of protests in support of the Wet’suwet’en is about respecting Indigenous rights, but also about responsibility — our collective responsibility to protect increasingly endangered ecosystems and some of Canada’s most intact natural areas.
Failing to consider the value of such areas — for people, for biodiversity, and for our climate — before making development decisions is increasingly leading to conflict.
We are on the cusp of a similar situation in Ontario, where plans to build roads to the Ring of Fire in the far north are being pursued in a way that similarly ignores the big picture.
Access roads into the Ring through one of the world’s largest remaining areas of intact boreal forest are being examined through separate impact assessments as if these roads had no relation to one another or won’t have a combined impact on wildlife or First Nation communities. These projects could ultimately pave the way for over 100 years of mining.
These narrowly focused impact assessments have already generated their fair share of conflict and continue to ignore the bigger cumulative impacts of multiple projects.