Ontario Construction News staff writer
The federal government is drafting terms of reference for a regional assessment for the potential development of a mineral-rich area of Northern Ontario, known as the Ring of Fire.
In a recent statement, Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, wrote that he agrees with the merits of conducting a regional assessment in the Ring of Fire district.
Wilkinson was responding to letters from Aroland First Nation band councillor Sheldon Atlookan, Dr. Cheryl Chetkiewicz of the Wildlife Conservation Society of Canada, and Dayna Nadine Scott of the Osgoode Hall Law School and Faculty of Environmental Studies.
He cited a number of reasons for supporting an assessment, including:
- A regional assessment could inform future project-specific federal impact assessments and other decisions
- Anticipated development has the potential to cause adverse effects within federal jurisdiction, including cumulative effects, in the area
- There are opportunities to collaborate with the province of Ontario and to involve indigenous groups, non-government organizations, and others in the planning and conduct of a regional assessment
- There is the potential for impacts, including cumulative impacts, to the rights of Indigenous people in the area
- The Ring of Fire is within Treaty 9 territory and is home to about 24,000 First Nations people. Anticipated development in the area will impact Aboriginal and treaty rights, traditional lands and resources, social-economic conditions, health and community well-being
“As a first step, I have instructed agency officials to meet with you (the letter writers) to discuss appropriate activities, outcomes and spatial and temporal boundaries for the regional assessment (which will) involve Indigenous groups and non-government organizations,” he said.
The results of these measures are to be reported back to him by the fall of 2020.
“We said we would build a road to the Ring of Fire, and we are working with our incredible partners in the Marten Falls First Nation and Webequie First Nation to do just that and make sure we do it right. Together, we can bring jobs and prosperity to communities across the Far North,” said Premier Doug Ford when announcing the agreement.