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Premier's pledge to 'build' the Ring of Fire questioned at Queen's Park

Minister Greg Rickford accused MPP Sol Mamakwa of pitting communities against each other
Ontario legislature

Premier Doug Ford's recent commitment to 'building the Ring of Fire' generated criticism in the legislature May 15 from the NDP.

Kiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa suggested the premier was making a mistake in relying on advice from Greg Rickford, the minister of Indigenous affairs and minister of Northern development.

Last week, Ford said building a road to the Ring of Fire and developing a mine there will elevate the standard of living in remote First Nations communities.

During Question Period Monday, Mamakwa called the premier's statements "very concerning."

"We know these projects cannot proceed without the free, prior and informed consent of First Nations. When the premier says the Ring of Fire is going to get built without that consent, it will lead to conflict," Mamakwa said.

Mamakwa then asked why Ford feels this is the right way to proceed.

Rickford responded, saying the government believes in building consensus around development of the North.

"We're not dividing and conquering, pitting one community against another like the member opposite appears to be. Instead, we want to have open and frank discussions about legacy infrastructure, energy, road access," he said.

"We have a rare opportunity here ... bring communities a better opportunity economically, socially, access to health and services programs, and build a world-class mining system to serve the world over in the electric vehicle battery supply chain."

Prefacing his follow-up question, Mamakwa declared, "The premier needs to stop getting bad advice from this minister."

The NDP member said First Nations have been "unequal partners for far too long" and that this approach is "very colonial."

"If First Nations come to a consensus that they do not want mining in their territories, then that needs to be respected," Mamakwa said. "If this government gets told 'no' by First Nations, will they respect that?"

This time, the question was answered by Mines Minister George Pirie, who said the recently passed Building More Mines Act will help the government work more efficiently "so mining companies can create lasting partnerships with Indigenous communities and economic development" for the entire region.

In his remarks last week, Ford stated that not all the First Nations in the Ring of Fire region are opposed to mining, only “a few, and I think one's 300 kilometres away. But we're going to work with them anyways."

— TBnewswatch