Chief, candidates at odds over right to say no
By Jody Porter, CBC News
First Nations consent is required before the Ring of Fire mining development can go ahead, according to a chief in northern Ontario.
"If I'm given a bottle of anti-freeze, I have a right to say no, I don't want to die," said Neskantaga Chief Peter Moonias.
"It's the same thing with all these impacts that are going to come out of the chemicals of the mining company."
Consent vs. consultation
Politicians of all stripes tout the chromite and nickel deposits in Treaty 9 territory as the economic opportunity of a century.
All agree that consultation with First Nations is important, but neither the NDP, Liberals or Progressive Conservative candidates in the Thunder Bay Superior North riding will commit to requiring First Nations consent.
"First Nations have done a very good job of saying we have a right to be consulted, [that] doesn't mean consent," said PC Derek Parks. "There has to be middle ground and there has to be some negotiations."
Incumbent Liberal Michael Gravelle, who is also the provincial mining minister, said his party is setting the standard for how negotiations with First Nations should be done.
"We recognize that to have the First Nations in a position where they feel they can be assured that benefits come to them is certainly the right course of action to take," Gravelle said.
'Aboriginal communities need to benefit'
But the NDP's Andrew Foulds said the Liberals have been too slow when it comes to including First Nations.
"The only way this will proceed is if we proceed as partners," he said. "The reality is that there are a number of stakeholders that have to benefit, Aboriginal communities need to benefit, of course the industry needs to benefit, municipalities need to benefit.
"As well we have to make sure the environment is not sacrificed," he added.
Chief Moonias said proper consultation will include informing all community members about the potential environmental impacts of mining.
'Like the oil sands...'
"It's a big process that Ontarians have to understand," he said. "Like the oil sands in Alberta... some of these people have the after affects now because things weren't done properly for the Aboriginal people"
Moonias said people in Neskantaga are interested in economic development, but not at any cost.
"Four thousand jobs are important, okay we know that," he said. But "the lives of the people here that live in the area, about five or six thousand people are also important to consider."
Moonias said he expects proper consultation will take two or three years.
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Ontario Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne will face-off on northern issues during a lunchtime debate Monday in Thunder Bay. PC Leader Tim Hudak will not attend, citing a scheduling conflict.