TORONTO — Retired Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci has left his role as Ontario's chief negotiator for the Ring of Fire.
Iacobucci says he resigned from the role "in order to give the new [Progressive Conservative] government the flexibility to decide what it wanted to do on the matter."
Former Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne appointed him in July 2013 to lead the government's negotiations with the Chiefs of the Matawa Tribal Council, reporting directly to then-Minister of Northern Development and Mines Michael Gravelle.
The Toronto Star has reported that the PC government under Doug Ford has quietly revoked a number of Liberal appointments since it took office at the end of June, and that Iacobucci's is among those.
The retired judge, however, told Tbnewswatch on Wednesday that he submitted a letter of resignation "once there was an election and a new government."
"To me, it's the courteous thing to do. It's up to them to decide whether to accept [it] or not, and they accepted it," Iacobucci said.
He added that it was "a privilege" to have served as negotiator and to work with the nine Matawa chiefs and their negotiator, former premier Bob Rae.
"To me, it was a very important experience which led to some progress, and hopefully more will be achieved."
Iacobucci declined to discuss the challenges he encountered during the five years that he held the post.
Matawa First Nations' management issued a statement Wednesday through CEO David Paul Achneepineskum:
"On the removal of Mr. Iacobucci as lead-negotiator for Ontario...Matawa First Nations leadership were able to develop a positive relationship with him during his time of service. It is not within our responsibility to comment on the rationale behind the new government's decision, but we do look forward to working with Minister [Greg] Rickford and Premier Ford in the future."
In a statement, a spokesperson for Energy, Northern Development and Mines Minister Greg Rickford confirmed that Iacobucci resigned, adding "We thank him for his service to the province."
Tbnewswatch had asked if the government planned to replace him, but the statement did not address that issue.
However, it said, "Real work continues in the Ring of Fire. Most recently, Marten Falls First Nation and Webequie First Nation entered into voluntary agreements with the Ministry of the Environment...to undertake environmental assessments for access roads, for Webequie into the Ring of Fire area, and for Marten Falls to connect to the provincial highway network."
The statement added "Ontario is committed to unlocking the tremendous potential of the Ring of Fire area. Unlike the previous government, we will not dither and delay these important projects."