Sudbury·Audio

Northern Ontario First Nation wants legislation that changes environmental assessments repealed

The Chief of a northern Ontario First Nation is calling on the province to repeal an omnibus bill that includes changes to the Environmental Assessment Act.

Ontario government passed Bill 197, called the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, last week

Leo Metatawabin is the chief of Fort Albany First Nation. (Erik White/CBC)

The Chief of a northern Ontario First Nation is calling on the province to repeal an omnibus bill that includes changes to the Environmental Assessment Act.

Last week, the provincial government passed Bill 197, called the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act. It includes 20 pieces of legislation, including changes to the province's building code act, the education act and the environmental assessment act. As a result, projects will only have to undergo an environmental assessment if cabinet orders one.

Chief Leo Metatawabin says he would like to see more consultation, engagement and meaningful dialogue.

"This treaty was based on a nation to nation [agreement] with the Crown, with Canada, it had nothing to do with Ontario," he said. "Ontario has no business imposing their laws, their legislation to suppress our sovereignty, our nation."

Metatawabin says work is also underway to get the information translated.

"That way the elders can read it and understand it," he said.

"We need the resources to engage and translate the material to be distributed and get  feedback. So that way, everybody is on the same level."

In a statement to CBC News, Ministry of Environment, Conservation & Parks press secretary Andrew Buttigieg, says the Ontario government is committed to consulting with Indigenous communities.

"Over the last two weeks the ministry held six webinars so far with Indigenous communities to provide updates on legislative amendments and proposed changes to the Class Environmental Assessment and proposed exemptions," he said.

"Now that the legislation is passed, the ministry will continue to consult with Indigenous communities as part of our efforts to modernize the environmental assessment program."

It's been called a red-tape reduction bill ... But the Ontario government's newly passed COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act has some seeing red, including the Chief of Fort Albany First Nation. 5:54

With files from Wendy Bird

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