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Not everyone’s keen on a Ring of Fire road

Fort Albany won’t consent to Northern Link without consultation
Fort Albany First Nation

A Cree community on the James Bay coast is “alarmed” by a new agreement signed to initiate the start of planning for the final stretch of the road into the Ring of Fire.

Fort Albany First Nation said they have not been included on the discussions for this missing link of road that they insist will have a major impact on their lands.

During a March 2 news conference in Toronto, Premier Doug Ford and cabinet minister Greg Rickford signed an historic agreement with Marten Falls and Webequie to start the process for the second leg of the road to the future mining camp, dubbed the Northern Link road.

Fort Albany said its traditional territory includes the Ring of Fire mineral belt and claims they were not consulted nor included on intergovernmental leadership meetings on the Northern Link.

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“Our peoples will not accept this,” said Fort Albany Chief Leo Metatawabin in a statement.

“We will not consent to anything done with disregard for our inherent and treaty rights.”

His community of 760 sits hundreds of kilometres downstream on the Albany River from Marten Falls; the latter community is 100 kilometres south of the Ring of Fire and 170 kilometres northeast of Nakina, the start of the provincial highway network.

The proposed north-south all-season road to Marten Falls, Webequie, and the development sites, would replace the winter road network and be a shared permanent community-industry road to connect the remote communities to Highway 643.

Metatawabin said his community has been participating in consultations on the impact and environmental assessment processes for the proposed Marten Falls-to-Aroland – the first leg of the Ring of Fire Road – and the Webequie supply road to the site of future of mine development, but were not included on this latest development.

The First Nation said they only learned of the Northern Link agreement through a press release.

“It appears that behind the scenes, Ontario, Marten Falls First Nation, and Webequie First Nation have been making plans that could majorly increase harmful environmental impacts of these projects. This raises serious concerns about free, prior and informed consent, the transparency and integrity of the environmental assessment processes, and whether Ontario is meeting its duty to consult.

“Ontario’s enthusiastic support for the Northern Road Link without any meaningful dialogue at all with Fort Albany makes us extremely concerned that they are not approaching their duty to consult in good faith, and that any consultation with us will simply be a rubber-stamp exercise,” said Metatawabin.