LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIOPublished by MAC on 2006-03-15
LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L'ONTARIO
1st March 2006 Mercredi 1er mars 2006
Mr. Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): My question is for the Premier. One year ago, with much fanfare and self-congratulation, your government announced a new approach to aboriginal affairs. You said, "Our new approach calls for working with aboriginal people."
Recently, the chief in council of the Big Trout Lake First Nation informed your government officials that they were opposed to a mining exploration company conducting drilling operations in the First Nation's traditional territory without your government first consulting with the First Nation.
Instead of your government consulting with the people of Big Trout Lake First Nation, you gave the mining exploration company the go-ahead to begin drilling in the First Nation's traditional lands, and when the people of the First Nation protested this, you sent in the OPP.
Premier, can you tell aboriginal people across this province, what happened to your promise to work with aboriginal people? What happened to your specific promise to respect and observe your legal obligations in respect of aboriginal people?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): To the Minister of Northern Development and Mines.
Hon. Rick Bartolucci (Minister of Northern Development and Mines): In incidents like this, it is always good to ensure that the facts that are given are facts that can be substantiated. Let me tell you that my ministry has been in contact with both the First Nations community and the company in question. We are very happy that the company has chosen to vacate the site and that police levels have returned to normal.
Mr. Hampton: This is not about the company; this is about your promise to consult with First Nations. This is about the Mikisew Supreme Court of Canada decision, which says that before you're going to build a winter road on traditional First Nation territory, before allowing a mining company access to their traditional territory, you must consult with the First Nation about their legitimate interests and rights. You didn't consult with the First Nation; you simply gave this mining company the go-ahead to go into their traditional territory and start drilling, and when people protested, in go the OPP.
I'll tell you, Minister, a chief of NAN and the chief of Big Trout Lake First Nation want to know when the McGuinty government is going to start observing the law of Canada as set down by the Supreme Court of Canada. When are you going to start observing the promise that you specifically made a year ago to First Nations to respect not only their constitutional rights, their treaty rights and their legal rights --
The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): The question has been asked. The Minister of Northern Development and Mines.
Hon. Mr. Bartolucci: There's absolutely no question that our government is committed, through the Ontario Secretariat for Aboriginal Affairs, to meet our legal obligations with the duty to consult. Ontario is preparing draft consultation guidelines to assist ministries in fulfilling that consultation, and that's being done through the minister responsible and through OSAA.
Let me tell you that when it comes to mining issues, we've very clearly spelled out in our mineral development strategy that the duty to consult will be lived up to as to the Mikisew Supreme Court ruling.