A northwestern Ontario First Nation has placed a moratorium on geophysical surveying of its traditional territory.
The council at Fort Severn has told the Ontario Geological Survey it's formally withdrawing its permission until Ontario and Canada recognize a government-to-government relationship with First Nations.
The letter to the Ontario Geological Survey from Fort Severn First Nation states, "The people of Fort Severn are dissatisfied with the slow reaction of the Canadian and Ontario governments to respond to the Idle No More movement and the hunger fast of Chief Theresa Spence. As a signatory of Treaty No. 9, Ontario has a responsibility to respond to the demands of the First Nations for a treaty relationship."
The letter, which was signed by Chief Joseph Crowe, adds, "The chief and council of Fort Severn Cree will revisit this decision on February 28, the next scheduled meeting of the First Nations leadership and Canada. If the people of Fort Severn are satisfied that progress has been made at this meeting, this moratorium will be lifted."
'Open the door for whoever wants to come in'
CBC News was unable to reach Chief Crowe for comment but one member of the Fort Severn council said gathering data about resources could cause problems for his community in the future.
"After the air survey is done, whatever they find is published," Angus Miles said.
"It's gonna be available to everybody. That's one of the biggest concerns we have. It's just gonna open the door for whoever wants to come in."
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines told CBC News the ministry has instructed the contractor it hired to conduct aerial surveys over Fort Severn to suspend work until further notice.
"Collecting geophysical data is part of MNDM's geoscience work," said Julia Bennett, communications co-ordinator for the ministry.
"This survey supports a five-year geology mapping plan that was developed based on the interests that were shared by the community and the OGS to study the geology in the region."
Bennett stated the now-suspended project was "going to help researchers understand the geological history of the region, the ground energy potential, mineral resource potential, groundwater implications, safety and health implications."
All the data was to be shared with the First Nation and "can help the community develop its land use plan that considers the quality of life and economic development opportunities," she added.