Neskantaga First Nation in northern Ontario has launched a lawsuit against the province for what it calls a failure to consult them on mineral mining on their land.
The community which is located about 430 km northeast of Thunder Bay, sits in an area that has been dubbed the “Ring of Fire” – a 5,000-square-kilometre swath of land west of James Bay that holds the largest deposits of chromite, nickel, copper and platinum in the country.
“For too long, our community’s laws and protocols have been disregarded by an Ontario government focused on economic development at the expense of Aboriginal, Treaty, and inherent rights,” said Chief Wayne Moonias in an online statement.
Neskantaga’s statement of claim to the Superior Court of Ontario focuses on sections from the Environmental Assessment Act regarding consultation.
The community says the area is a “globally significant wetland, massive carbon storehouse, and landscape that has sustained the lifeways of Anishinaabe and Anishini peoples.”
Law professor and advisor to Neskantaga Dayna Scott told APTN News in an interview the community wants to be heard.
“They want to have the chance to participate in discussions that are meaningful because they believe the Ring of Fire has a potential to disrupt their way of life,” said Scott.
Neskantaga First Nation is a fly-in Oji-Cree community with roughly 400 members, and has been under a 26-year boil water advisory – the longest-running in Canada.
It was also hit hard by the pandemic and had many members sent to Thunder Bay for treatment.
Chiefs issue open letter denouncing Ontario premier
On Dec. 1, three chiefs in the Ring of Fire area issued an open letter calling out Premier Doug Ford over operating in a “colonial” way to get work done without consultation.
“Public statements by Premier Ford reveal a deeply uninformed perspective on the First Peoples who have always lived in what is now Ontario, and on whose backs the Crown and non-Indigenous Canadians have disproportionately benefited,” wrote Chief David Nakogee (Attawapiskat First Nation), Chief Robert Nakogee (Fort Albany First Nation), and Moonias and published in The Raven.
“These statements are out of touch with reality, out of step with reconciliation and modern legal development, and not in keeping with the constitutional mandate of honour of the Crown. This behaviour should immediately cease and we ask that it does.”
Ford stated during the last provincial election that the Ring of Fire is going ahead and that he would drive the bulldozer himself.
“These statements reflect a clear intent for unilateral action no matter whether First Nations in the James Bay Lowlands – being the only people who have ever lived here – consent or consider it safe and fair to do so. This is the very essence, or pit, of colonialism,” the letter said.