Ontario's chief Ring of Fire negotiator says he is making a series of trips to Matawa First Nation communities as a way to ensure good lines of communication with First Nations.
Frank Iacobucci says he's already visited Eabametoong and Marten Falls this week — and will be going to other Matawa First Nations as well.
"I've been up in the north before, but I haven't been to all these First Nations," he said.
"I want … First Nations [to] know who I am and what my mandate is — and they get it from me and not from just reading about it."
Iacobucci said it's important for him to learn more about the communities as he prepares to start formal negotiations with Bob Rae.
'No one side that sets the agenda'
Iacobucci was accompanied Thursday by Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle. The pair met with reporters at Thunder Bay Airport before boarding for a two-hour flight to Neskantaga.
"I'm very pleased to spend time travelling with Mr. Iacobucci," Gravelle said.
"I recognize that it's important to build relationships from the start. This is a community-driven process."
Ring of Fire leaders are "sitting down very soon to get into the more substantive issues," Iacobucci added.
"But I have to say I am very much pleased with a lot of the work the province has already done. This is not sort of a start-up file at all. There has been a lot of work done [by provincial officials] ... and I am the beneficiary of that."
The northern Ontario trips are all about developing a relationship with the First Nations people before negotiations begin, Iacobucci said.
"The more you learn about the communities, the better you'll understand the impact on the communities, the aspirations of the communities, what you should address in these negotiations," he said.
"There's no one side that sets the agenda. You have to agree on the agenda and you deal with that through discussions and reasoning."