Despite strenuous resistance from all corners of Northern Ontario, the provincial legislature has officially passed Bill 191, the Far North Act, which will set aside 225,000 square kilometres as "protected areas."
The following are press releases issued by both the Ministry of Natural Resources, which supported the act, as well as the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, which denounced it:
MINISTRY OF NATURAL RESOURCES:
Ontario has made significant strides in economic development and environmental protection in the Far North with the passage of the Far North Act, 2010.
A first in Ontario history, First Nations' approval of land use plans is now required by law. First Nations communities will identify and approve the areas in the Far North that require protection as well as those areas suitable for economic development.
These land use plans are key to develop the Far North, including the region known as the 'Ring of Fire' which contains one of the World's largest deposits of chromite - a key ingredient in stainless steel and an economic opportunity for Far North communities.
The act provides a foundation for First Nations and Ontario to work together as partners on land use planning in the Far North as part of the Open Ontario plan to support the region's economy and environment.
"With the Far North Act, we have accomplished something ambitious, something exceptional," said Linda Jeffrey, minister of Natural Resources. "Together we are entering a new era of social prosperity, economic certainty and environmental protection in the Far North. It is our responsibility as global citizens to make wise land use decisions for this vast and unique part of the province and the world."
NISHNAWBE ASKI NATION:
Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Deputy Grand Chief Mike Metatawabin issued the following statement on behalf of the NAN Executive Council, Tribal Councils and NAN First Nations following the passing of Third Reading of Bill 191 – The Far North Act in the Ontario Legislature today.
“The passing of Bill 191 today indeed shows how little regard the McGuinty Government gives to the concerns of First Nations and other Northern Ontarians when it comes to decision making,” said NAN Deputy Grand Chief Mike Metatawabin. “It is a disappointing day for all of us who spent tireless hours opposing Bill 191 as our opposition was obviously ignored. As we have stated time and time again, NAN First Nations and Tribal Councils do not and will not recognize this legislation on our homelands. We will continue to uphold our Aboriginal and Treaty rights and jurisdiction over our land. The real fight is just beginning.”
Bill 191 – The Far North Act passed third reading in the Ontario Legislature today with a vote of 46-26.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation is a political territorial organization representing 49 First Nation communities in James Bay Treaty 9 and Ontario portions of Treaty 5 – an area covering two-thirds of the province of Ontario.