Ontario has lagged behind other provinces when it comes to its dealings with First Nations, said Bob Rae prior to a speech in Sudbury, March 6.
The former Premier of Ontario is the chief negotiator for the Matawa First Nations – a tribal council of nine First Nation communities near the Ring of Fire mineral deposits – in its dealings with the Ontario government is developing a partnership framework to develop the Ring of Fire.
Rae said Quebec and BC have been much
more open than Ontario to sharing management decisions with First
Nations and granting authority to regional governments.
“If you look at the kinds of agreements that have been signed in other provinces you see very clearly that you're looking at a way of not simply consulting with First Nations, but of giving First Nations the ability to take real responsibility for the building and management of infrastructure, the making of economic and social decisions, and participating fully in decisions affecting the natural environment,” Rae said.
Rae said those provinces have had more open discussions with First Nations because they were not encumbered with the numbered treaties that have coloured Ontario's history with Aboriginal people.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce claims the Ring of Fire will generate $25 billion in economic activity across numerous sectors in the province over its first 32 years of development and generate an estimated $6.7 billion in government tax revenues, as well create thousands of jobs.
“In the past, development has
happened without the participation of First Nations and without
really addressing their needs or the concerns that First Nations
communities have,” Rae said. “It's important for this development
to take place on a different basis.”
He did not provide a timetable, but said a regional framework to develop the role the Matawa First Nations is coming along well.
Rae said treating local First Nations as equal partners will be the only acceptable way to move ahead with the Ring of Fire.
“In my view, there's no practical alternative to this approach,” he said. “We need to make sure we get it right.”