A new approach to the assessment of the potential effects of northern mining development is being developed in the vast peatlands that make up Ontario’s James Bay Lowlands. It could lead to the collapse of the railways. It may even take Canada’s new activistSteven Guilbeault, Minister for Environment and Climate Change is in it.
Ontario’s long-standing interest in the Ring of Fire region has been fuelled by its mineral resources. Dreams of a new nickel mining facility are driving plans for an Hub for electric vehicle manufacturingWyloo is the Australian mining giant. take over major mining stakes.
But the all-season roads and infrastructure required for this transformation in an ecologically sensitive and remote area have been a source of significant controversy. Conflict and controversy.
A regional approach
Canada’s government entered the fray when the previous minister for environment and climate change declared a February 2020. Assessment of regional areas in the Ring of FireThis is the first major study under the new contested system. Impact Assessment Act.
Experts in environmental assessments welcomed the decision. They noted the tools that the new framework offered to allow for partnerships between Indigenous governing bodies, and to assess climate implications of proposed developments.
Most importantly, the regional assessment was expected enable thorough considerations of alternate future options and scenarios to determine which projects should proceed, how they should sequence in time, and how adverse impacts can be minimized.
However, the Impact Assessment Agency released at the end of 2021 the proposed terms for reference for that assessment. All hopes of such a approach were dashed. Minister Guilbeault met in January with five chiefs of remote Indigenous communities located near and downstream of the Ring of Fire deposits. Forbid him to retract these terms of reference and begin again.
I am the co-director of a clinic at a law school that supports Neskantaga first Nation. Wayne Moonias was one of five who appealed for the minister. I can confirm that the chiefs were clear in their statements: they said that the proposed terms and conditions of reference We are wrongly excluded from all but token roles by the Indigenous Peoples.
Will the sun set on Ring of Fire with debt, liability, and Indigenous action?
Persistent adverse effects
The Impact Assessment Agency of CanadaThe Minister of the Environment reports to. It is believed that the terms of reference with Ontario were negotiated over the past year by. They were likely to be in place before Guilbeault was appointed to the portfolio. The agency, however, arguably set Guilbeault up for failure.
These terms suggest that Canada’s and Ontario’s governments can lead a major assessment of an area occupied solely by Indigenous Peoples. However, Indigenous partners will not be included in the governance. This is simply a non-sensical proposition.
For residents of the region, the roads are extremely dangerous. Many of the Indigenous communities located near the Ring of Fire deposits can only be accessed by rail, or for a few brief months by ice-road. All-season roads are a promise for two of the communities that have become road advocates. – Improved access to education and health care, as well as lower construction costs and food prices.
All-season roads can be fiercely opposed by others, however. First Nations potentially affected by First Nations neighborsThey want their land and their jurisdiction recognized by the Crown before any development of their homelands begins.
Many First Nations are represented Others have noted the possibility of serious adverse effects, with lasting cumulative effects Climate and peatlandsContinue reading Social and cultural disruptions to harvesting rights, life and ways of livingThe Indigenous women and girls face the risk of being subject to sexual and gender-based violenceAmong others.
Approving new roads is a decision that opens up a remote area in the far north. There is no turning back.
Terms of reference
The federal governments Our expert panel reports in 2019That
If Indigenous Groups do not have modern treaties, they may wish to make their own arrangements. [impact assessment]They should be able and willing to cooperate with other groups. Federal [impact assessment]Governance structures and processes must support Indigenous jurisdiction.
Many of the panels are available in multiple languages Some excellent suggestions were discardedThe Impact Assessment Act was a political lightning rod. Debated in the House of Commons, and in the SenateOver the years that followed. These powers to partner with Indigenous governing body assessments survived and were included in the new act.
During Parliamentary Committee deliberations on the Impact Assessment Act statements were made by Government officialsIncluded Catherine McKenna, then Minister of Environment and Climate ChangeIndicating that the governments intended to create a legislative structure that would facilitate co-operation between Indigenous jurisdictions on assessment of impact, in the spirit for reconciliation
The new Act considers such scenarios where it might be appropriate to make an Indigenous governance body a partner jurisdiction on assessment that is, a decision maker on par with other jurisdictions like Canada and Ontario. The Act also includes the following: United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous PeoplesArticle 18 provides that Indigenous peoples are entitled to participate in decision-making processes when decisions affect them. This is not true Right to be consultedIt is a right to make a decision.
Despite these new powers being in the Act and despite the passage by Parliament of the Act Implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (211)The draft terms and conditions of reference indicate that Canada is not willing to accept these tools and put them into use.
It’s not too late
The first comprehensive regional assessment under the new act was the Regional Assessment in the Ring of Fire. It is an ecologically important area that is occupied only by Indigenous Peoples. The leaders of the affected communities have made it clear to the Impact Assessment Agency that their willingness to be partners in this assessment.
What chance do we have of ever making use of these new legislative tools if Minister Guilbeault is unable to apply them in this context?
The long-term stewards of lands are the communities most affected by the Ring of Fire development. They have the greatest stakes. They depend on the For their livelihoods, the region must maintain its ecological integrity.They can be involved in activities like hunting, trapping and fishing. They bring vital knowledge that would otherwise be inaccessible to impact assessments. Their deep knowledge makes them a governing authority.
Lisa Beaucage, a member of the Chippewas Unceded First Nation, wrote the Globe and MailThat The federal government should recognize that its policy towards Indigenous Peoples only extinguishes the fires it started..
Minister Guilbeault should recognize that Canada is just starting another fire by using this model for the regional assessments. There is still time for Canada to pull back and retrace its course.