Through an inclusive and collaborative approach, Wildlands League is working with First Nations, scientists, governments, industry, and concerned citizens on new emerging models of protecting northern rivers and on highlighting the unintended consequences of mining on fish (an important traditional food) and human consumers of fish.
We hosted a two day workshop in June 2016 called Regional Approaches to Land and Water Protection in Ontario and Quebec (agenda). We are helping Moose Cree First Nation in its effort to permanently protect the North French River near Cochrane. The North French is one of the last clean healthy rivers & sources of drinking water for this part of Ontario, and home to sturgeon and caribou. We are supporting Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, its watershed declaration and community protocol within the Severn River Watershed, and Fort Albany First Nation in its initiative to hold a dialogue on the health of the Albany River. We visited Weenusk First Nation (at Peawanuck) to learn about their ancestral lands and waters too (in April and July 2015) and attended a workshop in Moose Factory in February 2016. Wherever we go we listen and we learn. Respectful dialogue and collaboration are key to keeping northern rivers healthy.
We are grateful to the Ontario Trillium Foundation for its support of this project.
Indigenous leaders, environmental groups & EA and planning specialists met over two days in June 2016 to talk land and water protection in ON and QC.
Voices from our project on safeguarding country foods and pristine rivers (May 2017).
The ecological and cultural stakes are very high with northern rivers and communities. The future of the Albany, Attawapiskat, Ekwan/Sutton, Winisk, North French and others will be determined in the near term as governments and industry move forward with new plans for mines, dams, roads and power lines.
How society responds to these pressures will be key. Will governments bring a holistic planning approach or will they hand out permits in a piecemeal way? Will communities be forced to choose between short term jobs and economic benefits and the environment?
Or will they and the public have a chance to think thoughtfully about the future of these watersheds and develop a framework that will protect them, take into account climate change and cumulative effects and guide future development decisions? As scientists and legal experts observed, “We will not be able to circle back and undo poorly considered decisions about development, infrastructure or ecological and social trade-offs once plans are approved and shovels in the ground.”
For us solutions are rooted in: Making connections with communities as they respond to mining pressures and bringing information to them that helps safeguard rivers and traditional foods.
We also think that elevating and celebrating community voices who are championing new indigenous models of protection in the Far North is key, that supporting the growth of environmentally-minded leaders in these communities is important, and that mining plans that don’t pollute rivers or harm traditional foods are essential.