Skip to content

Matawa says Bill-197 allows unlawful access to northern resources

The Matawa Chiefs Council issued a statement saying the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act changes regulations related to the Environmental Assessment Act.

THUNDER BAY - First Nations in Northwestern Ontario say new regulations under the province’s COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act are allowing unlawful access to resources in the north.

Matawa Chiefs Council released a statement on Friday, saying Bill 197 – Ontario’s COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act that was passed last month, institutes changes to the Environmental Assessment Act and weakens requirements of the Ministry of the Environment and Conservation and Parks to oversee and monitor the environmental impacts of resource extraction.

“We have inherent Aboriginal and Treaty rights over our Homelands that must be acknowledged and respected by the Crown,” said Nibinamik First Nation Chief Sheldon Oskineegish in a media release.

“Our rights cannot be swept under the rug by Crown governments passing legislation designed to clear the way for mining and development on our lands without our consent. It’s shameful that Ontario is proceeding in this way and attempting to use the COVID-19 global pandemic as a smokescreen to ignore their constitutional duties to First Nations. Nibinamik will not stand for such dishonourable action. Any developments or decisions over our Homelands must be made in deep partnership with us.”

The Chiefs Council says the Ontario government is using the COVID-19 pandemic as cover to diminish treaty rights of First Nations across the province.

“Due to the economic pressures of a global pandemic, the Matawa Chiefs Council demand that Ontario will demonstrate higher standards for world class investment and growth to occur” said Sheri Taylor, Ginoogaming First Nation Council.

“We are deeply concerned about Crown government representatives making assurances to industry that Ontario will ‘handle’ and manage the legislation, regulations and policy related to the development of our traditional territories and homelands, intending only to extinguish our rights, disrespecting sacred sites and exclude the interests of our people, our communities and our future.”

The release from the Chiefs Council goes on to state that under the James Bay Treaty #9, Ontario does not have the authority to govern the region and the Crown’s duty is to protect the rights of the treaty.

The Chiefs Council says the provincial government continues to fail to recognize that development in the north constitutes a ‘taking up of land,’ and requires Crown level discussions with rights-bearing First Nations.

It says the new legislation also places an emphasis on projects and proponents and deletes the definition of and hiding the activities of undertakings that impact First Nation interests.

“Bill 197 demonstrates a deliberate attempt of the Ontario government to absolve itself of its Crown obligations, use Section 35 of the Constitution Act 1982 in its own interests, and eliminate the legitimate concerns and interests of our Peoples,” the statement reads.

“We all know that when Ontario and Canada made Treaty their goal was simple; to get our people off the land to make way for mining, forestry, dams and other so-called developments,” added Chief Chris Moonias, Neskantaga First Nation.

“Bill 197 is just the latest in the long history of attempts by Ontario to break the Treaty and violate our rights. The reality is that without the consent of our people resource development in the North simply will not happen.”


push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks