KITCHENUHMAYKOOSIB INNINUWUG FIRST NATION, Ont. — The federal government has given K.I. First Nation $300,000 to work toward establishing an Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area.
Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, 600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, wants to prevent development within the watershed surrounding Big Trout Lake and its traditional homelands.
Chief Donny Morris says that comprises an area of 1.3 million hectares.
"We will be able to practise our hunting and traditional things in this park...We just have to work to implement some rules, policies, how we're going to run this protected area," Morris told Tbnewswatch in an interview.
He said the federal funding to lay the groundwork will be provided in stages over three years.
Morris says the project won't be good just for his community, but will also benefit the general public in the future "to see there will be clean water, fresh water and trees. When we look at development it will be done in a way that does minimal damage."
A spokesperson for Environment and Climate Change Canada said the funding approved in August is for "capacity building."
According to Veronica Petro, that includes the identification of the lands, definition of boundaries and collection of baseline environmental data and Indigenous knowledge.
The funding, Petro noted, "will not result in the immediate establishment of an Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area but could support the development and implementation of one over the medium and long term if successful."
She said KI and other Indigenous communities involved in the program across Canada will have the opportunity to hold talks with key stakeholders such as mining and forestry interests "to discuss existing land uses and cooperate on future measures for conservation and protection."
Petro did not respond to questions from Tbnewswatch related to Ontario's role in the project.
However, Morris said "for some reason, Ontario is not making an effort to come to our table to start discussions on how we envision the north should look like."
He said "at some point, if Ontario doesn't do anything, we're going to come to a line where our laws and policies are not going to go hand in hand."
Morris said it remains to be seen where that line falls, as K.I. needs to ascertain how far south the boundary of its traditional territory lies.
So far, there has been no statement from the province about how it views K.I.'s proposal.
However, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Northern Development told Tbnewswatch on Friday that the issue falls within the purview of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.