APTN National News
Chiefs of Matawa member First Nations were in Thunder Bay Thursday to officially celebrate the recent signing of the “landmark” framework agreement with the province to develop the Ring of Fire, a bed of natural resources in northern Ontario estimated to be worth approximately $60 billion.
They were joined by Premier Kathleen Wynne and community members.
“This framework demonstrates that our First Nations are open for development that is sustainable and respects our lands. I want to affirm our commitment to our current agreements and understandings with other parties and other First Nations as we move forward on this regional process with Ontario,” said Aroland First Nation Chief Sonny Gagnon in a statement.
The agreement was signed last month and is aimed at ensuring First Nations not only benefit, but participate in the Ring of Fire developments according to a press release by the province.
The Ring of Fire is located 540 km northeast of Thunder Bay and is considered one of the richest mineral deposits in the province that includes the largest deposit of chromite, ingredient in stainless steel, in North America.
There’s also nickel, copper and platinum.
But negotiations have always gone smoothly.
First Nations have stood firm in demanding a fair piece of the resource cash the area holds.
And that has lead to long breaks in talks between the First Nations and the province.
To get the sides back together, the federal government, province and the tribal council each assigned a negotiator. The federal government put Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford in charge, the tribal council hired former Liberal leader Bob Rae and Justice Frank Iacobucci headed up the Ontario delegation.
“The regional framework is not about selling our land, but sharing our land as our Elders envisioned for the benefit of all,” said Nibinamik First Nation Chief Johnny Yellowhead. “Nibinamik First Nation understands the importance of balance between economic development that is required to ensure community growth and productivity, and the need to sustain cultural values and beliefs, particularly as related to the land. We are very happy to have participated in today’s ceremonies.”
The agreement does not mean that work will start anytime soon. But the framework does lay out how negotiations will be approached.
“This ceremony today demonstrates goodwill on the part of the premier and the chiefs for the negotiations we are entering into. The negotiations under this framework will complement the essential direct negotiations Webequie is having with the province of Ontario on a range of issues related to the Ring of Fire,” ,” said Chief Cornelius Wabasse of the Webequie First Nation. “Success in both of these negotiations will chart a course for a different future for all of us. It is now time for the real work to begin and we look forward to working with Ontario and our fellow First Nations.”