Doug Ford’s repeal of the Far North Act won’t gain the respect of Indigenous communities


Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Natural Resources Minister John Yakabuski seen at the Conservative government’s swearing-in ceremony on June 29, 2018. Photo by Alex Tétreault

Late last month, Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government confirmed that it plans to repeal the Far North Act, seeking to reduce “red tape” and increase “business certainty” in the Ring of Fire – a mineral deposit located near James Bay. While Premier Doug Ford is not the first to think he has found a key to unlocking the resource potential of Ontario’s north, this strategy is sure to backfire.

Ontario’s far north is inhabited almost exclusively by Indigenous peoples with ancestral homelands in the area covered by Treaty 9. It is a vast landscape of swampy boreal forest, a gigantic carbon sink that is also home to rare creatures such as the woodland caribou and the wolverine. Except for the De Beers diamond mine near Attawapiskat, there has been almost no industrial scale development in the whole region, which is why mining the hyped-up nickel and chromite deposits in the Ring of Fire region will require major new roads and other infrastructure.

When the Liberals first introduced the Far North Act in 2010, they did so over the objections of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN). The plan was to “protect” 50 per cent of the boreal wilderness, while “partnering” with First Nations in decision-making and revenue-sharing so as to facilitate mining. But while celebrated as an ecological victory, the scheme was actually designed to manage the increasing volume and credibility of claims to Indigenous governance authority in the region. Ontario, in the years prior to the act’s passage, had been forced to pay off mining companies to settle litigation alleging that Ontario was failing to facilitate access to companies’ mineral assets in the face of Indigenous resistance.

With the Far North Act, then, Ontario was trying to maintain the facade that it alone has the jurisdiction to make land-use decisions in Treaty 9 territory. Under the scheme that Mr. Ford now wants to scrap, remote First Nations are given funding to create community-based land-use plans that map out in detail the historical and contemporary uses of various parts of their territories. Communities can identify areas of significant value such as burial sites, fishing areas or traplines, and may designate areas as open for – or closed to – mineral exploration. But, in the end, the Minister decides whether to approve the plan; final authority remains with the province to make a decision in the “best interests of all Ontarians.” MORE

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Ford government proposes to scrap controversial law placing ‘restrictions’ on development in northern Ontario

Why Canada’s boreal forest is gaining international attention

The green ribbon that makes up 75 per cent of Canada’s forests is among the largest intact wildernesses on the planet. Environmentalists call it ‘one of the last great conservation opportunities.’ What do we need to do to save the boreal?

Image result for Why Canada’s boreal forest is gaining international attention

As the world’s ecological crisis becomes better understood, the boreal forest is becoming somewhat of a celebrity because of one jaw-dropping stat: the Canadian boreal represents 25 per cent of the planet’s remaining intact forest, leading the world alongside the Amazon.

What’s more, around 80 per cent of Canada’s boreal is still relatively intact — a rare thing in today’s world.

But the boreal is facing threats from logging, mining, fires, pests and the many ways those factors interact with climate change.

“We have to recognize that this is one of the last great conservation opportunities in human evolution on Earth,” says Jeff Wells, science and policy director for the Boreal Songbird Initiative.

The boreal is one of our best hopes for mitigating the effects of climate change and keeping the Earth habitable. Yet it also houses huge deposits of oil and gas and minerals. The decisions being made to protect or exploit it could have repercussions for generations. MORE

Ford government proposes to scrap controversial law placing ‘restrictions’ on development in northern Ontario


Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Natural Resources Minister John Yakabuski seen at the Conservative government’s swearing-in ceremony on June 29, 2018. Photo by Alex Tétreault

The grand chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) is cautiously welcoming a proposal by Premier Doug Ford’s government to repeal a 2010 law that his nation viewed as a form of colonialism.

Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler made the comments after Premier Doug Ford’s government announced a public consultation to repeal the Far North Act, legislation adopted by the former provincial Liberal government that gave First Nations some control over development in their traditional territories.

The government said on Monday that it was proposing to repeal the law with the aim of “reducing red tape and restrictions on important economic development projects” in the northern part of the province, including the Ring of Fire, all-season roads and electrical transmission projects.

This objective has some critics skeptical about the government’s intentions. This includes one critic who described the review as a plan to get “First Nations out of the way” to facilitate industry and government’s mining aspirations. MORE