MAC: Mines and Communities

Government and northern First Nation agree on forum to discuss resourceissues

Published by MAC on 2006-03-21

Government and northern First Nation agree on forum to discuss resourceissues

Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal

21st March 2006


A northern Ontario First Nation is negotiating a new deal with the province for sharing the benefits of mining, forestry and hydro development in the remote North.

Nishnawbe-Aski Nation Chief Stan Beardy and Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay announced the establishment of the Northern Table on Tuesday in Thunder Bay, during the annual winter chiefs assembly.

``We are happy to inform you that the presentation made by Minister Ramsay has been accepted by the chiefs,'' Beardy told a news conference.

Beardy, who represents 49 Nishnawbe-Aski communities in northern Ontario, said the announcement will allow NAN to engage the government in talks regarding ``prosperity for my people.''

Ramsay called it an historic day for Ontario, and a first in government-to-government negotiations with First Nations.

``It's a forum for discussion that will be driven by NAN,'' said Ramsay. ``They will drive the agenda and set the time frames.''

Although Ramsay and Beardy were smiling and shaking hands at the news conference, there appears to be some dispute over a moratorium on development while the Northern Table talks are held.

Beardy said the NAN chiefs' position is that a Supreme Court decision mandating consultation with First Nations must be respected.

``We want to make sure that before anything happens on our territory, any further development happens, that there has to be proper consultation,'' Beardy said.

Ramsay said halting development in the North is ``not a good idea.''

``We don't want to interrupt the prosperity and the development of their resources as we now sit down together for the first time,'' Ramsay said. ``It would be very disruptive because we want to grow that pie.''

Eight First Nations communities, including Big Trout Lake, have imposed moratoriums on mining and other development on their territorial lands.

Ramsay said there's ``no legal right'' for the moratoriums to be upheld.

``Not under law, no,'' Ramsay stated. ``That is an issue that is probably going to come up at the Northern Table.''

Ramsay said the Mining Act, in its current form, is a powerful piece of legislation that allows mining companies to stake claims on almost any piece of land in northern Ontario.

Other First Nations in the North, such as the Treaty 3 communities near Kenora, will be given progress reports and will be considered for full inclusion in the future.

Ramsay said he's spoken with Treaty 3 Chief Arnold Gardner about the Northern Table, but the province chose to start negotiations with NAN because of its large land base.

Big Trout Lake First Nation band councillor John Cutfeet said he was disappointed with Ramsay's decision not to acknowledge the moratorium on development.

``All they're saying is, `We need the territory now, and we'll give you part of that', and there's nothing to address what has happened in the past,'' Cutfeet said.

(Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal)

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