The Nishnawbe Aski Nation says Ontario's latest announcement about the Ring of Fire shows the province is not properly consulting First Nations.
NAN Deputy Grand Chief Les Louttit calls the province’s proposed Ring of Fire development corporation a "Father knows best" approach, adding he hasn't had any contact from the province about its plan.
“This is normal, a normal policy for this government,” he said. “You pretend to consult and you do minimal consultation, then you defer that responsibility to the industry.”
Northern Development Minister Michael Gravelle said the province sent letters to individual First Nations and mining companies “to determine who else wants to be part of this development corporation, who will be involved in the future development of the project from an infrastructure point of view.
"It became clear to us that we needed to find a way to break the log jam [surrounding Ring of Fire negotiations] and, when we moved forward with the announcement last week, it was based upon the fact that … the potential partners in the development corporation would indicate their interest in becoming involved,” he said.
Partners, not bystanders
Neskantaga First Nation Chief Peter Moonias confirmed he received a letter and is waiting to pass judgment on how useful the development corporation will be.
“We have to be at least partners in that, not just bystanders to the Province of Ontario and the companies,” he said.
"The First Nations people are going to be the ones [who] are going to be impacted and we have to play a leading role to determine how this is going to be done."
Gravelle said the province is still holding talks with NAN on broader regional infrastructure needs, but welcomes NAN's input on the Ring of Fire specifically.
For his part, Louttit said more work needs to be done on those broader needs, and added the north needs a northern Ontario regional development plan.
‘Years have been wasted’
The Leader of the New Democratic Party is taking a wait-and-see approach when it comes to developing infrastructure in the Ring of Fire.
Andrea Horwath met with Mayor Keith Hobbs Thursday morning in Thunder Bay.
She said says she hopes the new development corporation will bring all the parties to the table.
"Years have been wasted. And that everybody understands the roles that they have to play and we haven’t seen that yet,” she said.
“Whether this development corporation somehow is able to overcome the mess that the government's made already, it's a wait and see."
Horwath says she hopes any infrastructure development can be used by people living in the north, and not just for the transportation of goods.