Thunder Bay

Ontario '10 years behind' in First Nations consultation process

Horizon Wind is taking the province to task over its framework for consultation with Aboriginal communities.

Horizon Wind expresses frustration over lack of 'clear rules of engagement'

The Norwester Mountains in Thunder Bay, Ont., are the site of a proposed wind farm project by Horizon Wind.

Horizon Wind is taking the province to task over its framework for consultation with Aboriginal communities.

Horizon's vice-president of development said other provinces make the consultation process easier and faster.

“We've done business in other provinces and Ontario, in our experience, is basically a decade behind in the other provinces and really needs to catch up,” Nhung Nguyen told CBC News.

As an example, Nguyen said the Saskatchewan government will make a decision in 30 to 90 days on whether First Nations have been properly consulted.

So far, it's taken Ontario three years to do the same thing, she said.

'Everybody's frustrated'

Nguyen noted that in Quebec, the government takes the lead in consultation, while in Ontario, it's up to the companies.

"What we're lacking in Ontario is a clear rules of engagement, with processes, timelines and expectations for all sides,” she said.

She pointed to Cliffs stopping work in the Ring of Fire as another example of the consequences of the issue.

"Everybody's frustrated."

The chief of Fort William First Nation could not be reached for comment on this story.

The First Nation’s application for an injunction against Horizon’s Big Thunder Wind Farm was recently dismissed.

The First Nation maintained the crown and Horizon failed to adequately consult affected First Nations, and didn't sufficiently respond to concerns that were raised. The judge dismissed the injunction application on the basis it was premature.

Horizon is also dealing with news the Ontario Power Authority has now terminated its contract with the company.

Nguyen declined to elaborate on the company's stated intention to "dispute" the OPA’s decision.

"We're just continuing to consider our options and weigh them, but it's too early to tell."

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