When it comes to natural resources, First Nations and other levels of governments are suffering from a communication breakdown.
That has been made quite clear to Fort William First Nation chief Georjann Morriseau during the First Nation’s often difficult and tenuous struggle with Horizon Wind Inc. regarding the proposed Big Thunder Wind Park.
Addressing the judicial review recently filed by Fort William First Nation against multiple provincial ministries, Morriseau said similar issues are taking place across the country and they are only going to get worse if no action is taken.
“Over the course of the last few years it’s been a constant battle with our First Nations people trying to assert their rights and their jurisdictions on their own natural resources. Trying to sit at those tables and negotiate as equals has been like pulling teeth,” Morriseau said from her office on Monday.
“It’s a systemic issue and the same issues with Horizon are relevant to First Nations in the Ring of Fire or other First Nations who are battling with proponents coming into their territory. .. it’s something that’s going to come to a head if we don’t do something about it.”
The first step, she says, is acknowledging the legal significance of agreements, such as the Robinson Superior Treaty, and the rights they gives First Nations to assert jurisdiction on the land.
There shouldn’t be a need for judicial reviews when dealing with legal precedents that have been in place since 1850, she added.
The First Nation announced earlier this month they were filing a judicial review against the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, stating the province has the sole responsibility to consult with them and failed to do so when Horizon Wind’s Renewable Energy Approval was accepted.
They are asking for Horizon to stop all work on the project.
The First Nation claims Crown correspondence has indicated there will be no consultation with communities on the lease of undeveloped land before approving them for development.
According to a letter from Ministry of the Environment’s environmental approval branch manager Ian Parrott to Fort William First Nation’s lawyer Chantelle Bryson, there has been adequate consultation.
“As such we cannot agree that consultation with Fort William First Nation has never happened or that it is only now commencing,” the letter reads.
Earlier this month Horizon community and public affairs director Kathleen MacKenzie said the company feels its has met its obligation to consult and the 16-turbine project is in the technical review phase.
There is no work being currently done at the site.
The chief says there has been no consultation with Horizon or the government since meetings held in November.
The review is pending.