Provincial consultation deadline pushed back for two proposed roads in Ring of Fire (CBC News Thunder Bay – January 27, 2021)

The Ontario government says it has heard concerns from Indigenous communities about the challenges of consulting on proposed developments for two access roads into the Ring of Fire area, and have extended deadlines for both projects after pushback from some First Nations in the area.

Both the Webequie supply road and the Marten Falls community access road are working their way through the province’s environmental assessment process. That process will answer the questions of if, when and how work can proceed on the proposed developments.

Webequie and Marten Falls have each submitted their terms of reference — or the roadmap laying out how the proposed projects should be studied during the environmental assessment — to the provincial government and are awaiting its approval before the studies can begin.

But a critical component in getting Ontario’s sign-off is consultation with First Nations, the public and other stakeholders — a process which has been contested because of concerns that the COVID-19 pandemic limits the ability of First Nations to submit informed comments on how they may be affected by the proposed roads and how the issues should be studied.

The original deadlines to submit comments were in the summer and fall of 2020. But those deadlines set up confrontations between Webequie and Marten Falls with neighbouring Neskantaga First Nation who said it wanted to be included in the process, but could not do so during the pandemic and after the community had been evacuated due to an exacerbated water crisis.

For the rest of this article: