To add to the call for greater scrutiny at what is taking place in the James and Hudson’s Bay lowlands, the Matawa Chiefs Council, whose communities will be directly impacted by the activities in the Ring of Fire have also written a letter to Ministers of the Environment, Peter Kent (Canada) and John Wilkinson (Ontario) respectively, calling for a “Joint Review Panel Environmental Assessment (EA) for Mining and Enabling Infrastructure in the traditional territories of the First Nations within the Matawa First Nations.”
The Matawa First Nations Chiefs state that “the cumulative effects of these mining and infrastructure projects (road, rail, hydro, and telecommunications) on the traditional territories of our First Nations will profoundly affect our communities and the future of all of Northern Ontario…..the sensitive aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems of this area, with its high water table and many rivers and streams will be significantly impacted by these developments; this is especially true for those remote First Nations closest to the Ring of Fire and infrastructure areas.”
The Matawa First Nations Chiefs state that companies have submitted Project Descriptions to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) and that, “Our First Nations were not consulted in these Project Descriptions and per Supreme Court of Canada Decisions (Mikisew, Haida, Taku River Tlingit, etc.) the Crown is to consult with First Nations.”
For a number of years now, Supreme Court of Canada jurisprudence says that if the Crown contemplates conduct that will impact Aboriginal and Treaty rights, (Section 35-Constitution Act-1982), it must consult and accommodate the rights-holders prior to the impacting of said rights.
In May 2008, the Ontario Court of Appeals, upon releasing the Ardoch Algonquin and the KI-6 to time served, ruled that there was a “duty to negotiate to reconcile aboriginal interests with competing interests.”
It was shortly after the Court of Appeals decision, two (2) pieces of legislation were introduced at Queen’s Park to deal with mining and related issues (amended Mining Act) and land use planning ( the Far North Act) respectively, to reflect the public outcry against the incarceration of First Nations as a result of an archaic Mining Act.
Premier Dalton McGuinty stated, “Our plan will ensure that mining potential across the province is developed in a sustainable way that benefits and respects communities. We will ensure that our mining industry remains strong – but we also need to modernize the way mining companies stake and explore their claims to be more respectful of private land owners and Aboriginal communities. The Ontario Government believes exploration and mine development should only take place following early consultation and accommodation of Aboriginal communities.”
Indigenous peoples have made declarations and have been holding “Mother Earth Water Walks” to call attention to the sacred gift of water, the source of our life, the source of all life.” since 2003 to put into action the Indigenous Declaration on Water made in the summer of 2001 which states:
“As Indigenous Peoples, we raise our voices in solidarity to speak for the protection of Water. The Creator placed us on this earth, each in our own sacred and traditional lands, to care for all of creation. We stand united to follow and implement our knowledge, laws and self-determination to preserve Water, to preserve life.” Indigenous Declaration on Water, July/August 2001, British Columbia, Canada.
On July 5, 2011, Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) held a referendum on a Water Declaration to “protect all waters that flow into and out of Big Trout Lake, and all lands whose waters flow into those lakes, rivers, and wetlands, to be completely protected through our continued care under KI’s authority, laws and protocols.” They voted overwhelming to protect their watershed.
It is estimated that one-fifth of the world’s freshwater is in Canada and roughly 3.9 % located in the north of Canada so it is under these challenging circumstances that watershed protection efforts are coming to the Far North.
The four (4) major rivers and the surrounding watersheds in the Far North appear like arterial blood veins as they provide water and nutrients to an ecosystem that provides life to watersheds and lands, including throughout the Ring of Fire, along the way to Hudson’s and James Bay in Noopemig.