Ontario Aboriginal Affairs minister responds to chiefs
Consultation, not consent, required for resource development on First Nation land, David Zimmer says
Ontario's Minister of Aboriginal Affairs is at odds with First Nations in the province over treaty and Aboriginal rights.
Last week, the Chiefs of Ontario issued a formal 'notice of assertion of sovereignty', stating that 'First Nations have the right to grant or withhold free, informed, prior consent on any activity that may affect First Nations resources..."
Free, informed, prior consent is the standard required by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
But Ontario's Aboriginal Affairs Minister David Zimmer says it's not what the laws of Ontario require.
"The Supreme Courts, all the decisions talk in terms of meaningful consultation, that's the key here," Zimmer said.
The status quo isn't satisfactory for many chiefs, however, with some saying last week they are willing to put their lives on the line to prevent unauthorized mining or forestry activity on their traditional lands.
"We're no longer just going to be civilly disobedient. We're going to defend our lands, and there's a big difference there," Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Harvey Yesno said at a news conference last week.
"Our young people are dying, our people are dying. So let's die at least defending our land."
Zimmer said other Ontario ministries will need to address the implications of the chiefs' declaration.
"The notice of assertion...that's something that the minister of northern development and natural resources and so on has got to deal with the technical piece on that," Zimmer said.
Zimmer was expected to attend the Nishnawbe Aski Nation chiefs' meeting near Thunder Bay on Thursday.
The event was closed to the media.