For immediate release
Monday, March 2, 2020, Toronto
Neskantaga Chief Chris Moonias warned the proponents of the new road link to the Ring of Fire announced today that their project would meet determined opposition from his community.
“You can expect opposition if Ontario, or any road proponent, tries to put a shovel in the ground of our territory without our consent”, said Neskantaga Chief Chris Moonias.
Phase 2 of the proposed N/S road to the Ring of Fire bisects the core of Neskantaga’s territory and crosses the Attawapiskat River; the lifeblood of Neskantaga’s culture and way of life.
“The Ring of Fire is a symbol of Premier Ford’s ‘jump on a bulldozer’ agenda, but if the Ford government wants roads built, they’ll have to ensure it doesn’t become another flashpoint in broader national clashes between governments and First Nation communities on free prior and informed consent,” said Chief Moonias.
In 2016, Ontario committed to work with Canada to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Under this piece of international human rights law, Indigenous Peoples have the rights to “free, prior, and informed consent” (FPIC) on any developments on their lands.
Article 32 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states that governments must consult in good faith with affected Indigenous peoples “in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources”.
The Ring of Fire, located 540 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, is promoted as one of the most significant mineral regions in Canada.
Neskantaga Chief Chris Moonias only learned of the announcement in a last minute phone call from Ontario Indigenous Affairs Minister Rickford.
“The days of ‘courtesy call’ Indigenous consultation are long over,” said Chief Moonias, “Ontario is a ‘day late and a dollar short’. This kind of approach to consent will inevitably lead to project delays and the courts.”