Communities

Since time immemorial, Indigenous Peoples have lived on the lands we now call northern Ontario, including the Anishinaabeg, Ililiwak, Ininiwak and Inninuwug Nations. The Nations had their own defined territories, sophisticated trade networks, and governance systems. They maintained reciprocal relationships for generations with the lands, waters, wildlife, plants and other relatives, keeping each other healthy and abundant.

“We are serious when we say that the land belongs to our people, because it’s important to recognize that since time immemorial, people have used this land. And I think it’s important to recognize that — the traditional rights of our people and the territorial rights of our people.”

 

Peter Moonias, Neskantaga First Nation (“We Love Our Land“)

Fort Severn - Ecological Atlas

Webequie First Nation

Photo by Cheryl Chetkiewicz / WCS Canada

Most of the 33 First Nations in the far north of Ontario are small, remote communities that are only accessible by air or winter ice road, and offer limited health, education and social services.

While First Nations have been impacted – and continue to be impacted – by colonization, First Nations people continue to hold deep relationships with the land, including for ceremonial purposes, hunting, fishing and gathering. Family traplines criss-cross the region, which is filled with hunting camps, gathering spaces and community burial grounds. Their rights to use and maintain relationships with these lands and waters are inherent.

Governance

Sunrise on the North French River

Photo by Connie O’Connor / WCS Canada

A community listening to a presentation on mining.

Photo by Cheryl Chetkiewicz / WCS Canada

First Nations have inherent rights to self-determination, to use the lands and waters that make up their homes since time immemorial, and to govern over these areas. Canada has reaffirmed that Indigenous Peoples have rights to hunt, fish, and trap within their homelands. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) affirms these rights, and details additional rights, such as the right to free, prior and informed consent before any activities happen in their homelands.

However, colonial practices have infringed upon these rights throughout the history of Canada, subjugating Indigenous nations and governments to colonial rule through a patchwork of policies and legislation.

Many, although not all, First Nations are signatories to treaties with the Canadian and provincial governments that outline the nature of their relationships. In the area now called the far north in Ontario, many Indigenous Nations signed onto Treaty No. 9 or Treaty No. 5 in the early 1900s. 

All of this has created a state of governance in which the Canadian constitution, its laws and court system assert supremacy over Indigenous laws and governments.

In northern Ontario, the provincial and Canadian governments have used the treaties to claim sole jurisdiction over the lands and waters, passing policies to govern resource extraction, fish and wildlife, and infrastructure development. 

However, First Nations Peoples have long argued that treaties were about sharing jurisdiction, not surrendering their decision-making authority.

There is documented evidence about discrepancies between the oral promises that Indigenous Peoples and leaders agreed to, and the written copy of Treaty No. 9.

The evidence shows treaty commissioners made oral promises that were not included in the written treaty, and that the commissioners did not discuss clauses in the written treaty that restricted Indigenous Peoples to using and living on certain lands, and that allowed Canada to remove lands from the jurisdiction of Indigenous Nations.

“The plaintiffs have never consented to the Crown taking exclusive jurisdiction over the land. The Crown’s taking and forced imposition of exclusive jurisdiction disabled any ability of the plaintiffs to give or withhold free, prior and informed consent.”

 

— Treaty 9 lawsuit filed by 10 First Nations in 2023

In response, First Nations have gone to the court system, launching lawsuits against the Canadian and Ontario governments over the misrepresentation and the application of Treaty No. 9. The lawsuits have touched on a wide range of issues, including hunting and gathering rights, historic degradation of the boreal forest, and jurisdiction over natural resource management.

First Nations have also been vocal in asserting their right to self-determination and self-government, actively working to restore traditional laws, forming alliances, protesting against the degradation of their lands, and seeking jurisdiction over their lands.

Read about more some of these actions of resistance and governance:

Declarations

In July 2003, the chiefs of Neskantaga, Nibinamik and Wunnumin Lake First Nations sign a declaration to protect their rights and interests in their traditional territories.

In July 2011, Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug community members vote to establish their Water Declaration and Consultation Protocols, establishing a protected area for the entire Big Trout Lake watershed, where no industrial activity is allowed. The laws are based on Kanawayadan D’aaki, the ultimate law binding the First Nation to the sacred duty and responsibility to protect and look after the land.

In March 2022, NioBay Metals suspends its exploration activities on a niobium project located in the heart of the traditional territory of Moose Cree, in part at the request of the First Nation. Moose Cree has been protecting this land for a long time. In 2002, they declared the North French River watershed protected and rejected a similar drilling proposal in 2003. They later pursued a court application to prevent NioBay from exploratory drilling in the area, and in 2020, signed a protection agreement with the company to ensure any such activities meet environmental standards and land rights set out by Moose Cree.

Moratoriums

In October 2005, four First Nations (Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, Muskrat Dam, Wapekeka and Wawakapewin) declare a moratorium on mining exploration and forestry in their traditional lands amidst a time of increasing pressure for resource extraction in the region.

In April 2021, Attawapiskat, Fort Albany and Neskantaga declare a moratorium on all development in the Ring of Fire until a comprehensive regional impact assessment is conducted.

Compensation

In May 2006, Muskrat Dam asks for $20,000 in compensation from DeBeers Canada after they say the company’s mineral exploration work disturbed the flocks of geese, severely disrupting the community spring goose hunt. Muskrat Dam continued in ensuing years to call on DeBeers to stop exploration activities in their homelands.

Protests

In March 2008, six leaders from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug are sentenced to six months in jail after ignoring a court injunction and protesting against mining activities in their traditional lands by Platinex. The leaders were released two months later, and the land Platinex had staked was eventually removed from areas available for mineral exploration. The incident led to significant amendments to Ontario’s mining act.

In February 2013, members of Attawapiskat stage a blockade of a winter road leading to a diamond mine operated by DeBeers Canada in the First Nations traditional territory. The company and First Nation signed an impact benefit agreement (IBA) in 2005, before the mine opened in 2008. But community members called for a new IBA amid concerns that the mine was not benefiting the community enough, and that Attawapiskat employees at the mine were facing discrimination and racism. Documents at the time showed Attawapiskat received about 0.5% of the annual diamond revenues, although DeBeers said their contributions to the First Nations economy went beyond just royalties. The blockade ended the same month with an agreement to reopen the IBA.

Regional Framework Agreement

In April 2014, the nine Matawa First Nations sign on to a regional framework agreement to discuss and negotiate an approach for development in the Ring of Fire and in the Nations homelands. That agreement was later ended in 2019 by the newly elected Progressive Conservative government.

Lawsuits

In April 2023, ten First Nations launch a lawsuit against Ontario and Canada, arguing that more than a century of resource extraction in their homelands have infringed upon their jurisdiction.

Land Claims

In December 2022, the Ontario Ministry of Mines withdraws almost a thousand square kilometers of land from prospecting and mining claim registration, because of the Long Lake #58 First Nation’s assertion of land claim in the area. This follows decades of work to assert jurisdiction over larger areas of the First Nations homelands.

Injunctions

In May 2011, Constance Lake wins an injunction against Zenyatta Ventures to temporarily pause their mineral exploration activities a few hundred kilometres south of the Ring of Fire, in the First Nations lands. A few months later, the company and First Nation reached an agreement giving preferential consideration for job opportunities and contributing to a fund benefiting community elders and youth.

In September 2021, Ginoogaming receives a temporary injunction to stop mining exploration in Wiisinin Zaahgi’igan, a sacred area in the First Nations homelands. The court ruled that Ontario failed to consult with Ginoogaming before issuing a mineral exploration permit inside the area. The same month, Ginoogaming signed an agreement with another company to undertake mineral exploration in a different part of its territory, exercising its jurisdiction by issuing a permit to the company.

Indigenous-led Protection

Through blockades, legal action, agreements with mining companies, and restoring traditional laws, First Nations in northern Ontario have asserted their jurisdiction and sought to protect their lands. 

An emerging method to protect lands and waters and to meet conservation goals is through the creation of Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs). IPCAs are areas where Indigenous governments have the primary role in protecting and conserving ecosystems using Indigenous governance and knowledge systems.

They vary in terms of governance and management objectives, but have three essential elements:

  1. IPCAs are Indigenous-led, meaning it is Indigenous communities and governments that determine the objectives, boundaries, management plans and governance structures.
  2. They represent a long-term commitment to conservation or similar Indigenous concepts.
  3. They elevate and support Indigenous rights and responsibilities.

IPCAs are part of a much broader effort to support Indigenous-led governance, and come amidst growing recognition by scientists, governments and others about treaty obligations and the importance of working alongside Indigenous governments.

Project Finance for Permanence (PFP) is one approach to secure the policies, institutional agreements and funding required to establish and maintain these protected areas. It brings together all relevant stakeholders to establish unifying conservation goals and secure sufficient funding to achieve the goals.

Learn more about Indigenous-led protection in this video

First Nations are working to establish and maintain several protected areas in the northern boreal forests and peatlands. The Ontario government under Premier Doug Ford has not yet supported any of the protected areas, despite a recent recommendation to do so by a provincially appointed expert panel.

Some of the protected areas that First Nations are working to establish include:

Fawn River Indigenous Protected Area

Located in the homelands of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI), the watershed is 13,025 km², and is subject to an agreement with Canada in 2019 to establish the protected area. KI is working alongside Wapekeka to safeguard the watershed. WCS Canada provided scientific advice to support the project, and you can read more about it here.

North French River First Nation Protected Area

Moose Cree has been working for many years to protect the North French River, known as Kah-pana-yow Sibi in Cree. About 1/5th of the river is already protected, and the First Nation is working toward protecting the entire river. In 2021, Moose Cree First Nation received funding from Canada to support the establishment of an IPCA, and you can read more on the project here.

James Bay and Hudson Bay National Marine Conservation Area

In 2021, the Mushkegowuk Council signed a memorandum of understanding with Canada to undertake a feasibility study on the creation of a national marine conservation area in western James Bay and southwestern Hudson Bay. The area is over 90,000 km2, and includes coasts and waters that are home to beluga whales and polar bears. The area is an important global stopover for billions of migratory birds, and is adjacent to the carbon-rich peatlands. There is a close relationship between the marine and peatland ecosystems. In 2022, the conservation area received a major boost with the creation of a Project Finance for Permanence initiative, which brought in necessary funding to establish the area.

First Nations

Dozens of First Nations have their homelands throughout the Treaty No. 9 territory, including many that are being affected by proposed mineral and infrastructure development . Below you can read a bit more about some of the First Nations, what they’ve said about proposed development, and what they’re doing to protect their homelands.

Aroland

Attawapiskat

  • Attawapiskat is a remote Cree community located a few kilometres upstream from James Bay, at the mouth of the Attawapiskat River. There are more than 2,800 members of the First Nation, with nearly 1,600 living on the reserve. It is a member of the Mushkegowuk Council, NAN and Chiefs of Ontario.
  • The First Nation has been active when it comes to mining proposals and projects in their homelands. They signed an impact benefit agreement with De Beers in 2005, which paved the way for the mining company to establish the Victor Mine — the first diamond mine in Ontario. It began construction in 2006 and was in operation until 2019. But in 2013, some Attawapiskat community members blockaded the mining road, saying the First Nation was not benefitting enough from the mining project. In 2016, Attawapiskat community members expressed concerns about environmental and social impacts of the Tango extension to the Victor Mine, causing De Beers to abandon further exploration plans. Later, the community protested company plans for a landfill in the area, and De Beers pleaded guilty to one count of failing to report mercury monitoring data related to its project.
  • Attawapiskat leaders have also been vocal about their exclusion from impact assessment and decision-making processes related to the Ring of Fire. The First Nation sued the Ontario government and mining company Juno in 2021, successfully arguing in court they were not consulted about Ring of Fire-related mineral exploration activities in their homelands.
  • In 2021, Attawapiskat called for a moratorium on all mineral developments in the Ring of Fire with concerns about the cumulative impact on the environment and their way of life. They called on the federal government to include Indigenous communities as a decision-making partner in the coming federal regional assessment in the Ring of Fire.

Constance Lake

  • The people of Constance Lake work and live within the Kenogami Watershed, and have hunted, trapped and fished along the river and lake systems since time immemorial. Today, the First Nation has roughly 1,800 members, with about half living on-reserve. It is a mixture of Cree, Ojibway and Oji-Cree, and is accessible year-round by road. Constance Lake is a member of Matawa, NAN and the Chiefs of Ontario.
  • In 2022, Chief Ramona Sutherland called on Ontario and Canada to improve their impact and environmental assessment processes in the region. “A decade has passed since we began talking about the Ring of Fire, and from our perspective, we are nowhere near resolution on the matter. Canada’s reconciling of their relationship with Indigenous People must include the stopping of its continued infringement of Inherent, Aboriginal and Treaty Rights,” she said in a statement with other Matawa chiefs.
  • Constance Lake joined a Treaty 9 lawsuit in 2023, alleging Ontario and Canada have breached the terms of the treaty by excluding First Nations from decision-making processes about the governance and use of lands, waters and resources. The lawsuit calls for a new governance process that would see Ontario share decision-making power with First Nations.

Eabametoong

  • Eabametoong is a remote Ojibway First Nation, located on the northern shore of Eabamet Lake. It is accessible only by air and a winter ice road, and has an on-reserve population of roughly 1,500 people. The First Nation has been under a boil water advisory since 2001. It is a member of Matawa, NAN and Chiefs of Ontario.
  • In 2022, Eabametoong added its voice to the growing concerns about being excluded from the federal government’s regional assessment process for the Ring of Fire. They called for federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault to restart the regional assessment process, including Eabametoong and other regional First Nations as decision-making partners.
  • One year later, Eabametoong joined the Treaty 9 lawsuit, alleging Ontario and Canada have breached the terms of the treaty by excluding First Nations from decision-making processes about the governance and use of lands, waters and resources.

Fort Albany

  • The remote Cree community is located along the west coast of James Bay. There are about 1,200 people living within the community itself, with a total of 5,000 members that it shares with Kashechewan First Nation. It is a member of the Mushkegowuk Council, NAN and the Chiefs of Ontario.
  • Along with Kashechewan, Moose Cree and Attawapiskat First Nations, Fort Albany was involved in the Victor Diamond Mine after signing an impact benefit agreement with De Beers. However, the details of that agreement and the net benefits for the community were never disclosed.
  • In 2021, Fort Albany joined Attawapiskat and Neskantaga in calling for a moratorium on all mineral developments in the Ring of Fire, with concerns about the cumulative impact on the environment and their way of life. They called on the federal government to include Indigenous communities as a decision-making partner in the coming federal regional assessment in the Ring of Fire.
  • Fort Albany joined a Treaty 9 lawsuit in 2023, alleging Ontario and Canada have breached the terms of the treaty by excluding First Nations from decision-making processes about the governance and use of lands, waters and resources. The lawsuit calls for a new governance process that would see Ontario share decision-making power with First Nations.

Ginoogaming

  • Ginoogaming is a small Ojibway community in Treaty 9 lands, located near the Trans-Canada Highway in northern Ontario. There are nearly 800 people registered as members of the First Nation, with about 200 living in the community. It is a member of Matawa, NAN and Chiefs of Ontario.
  • Ginoogaming has been actively working to protect parts of their homelands from mining activity. In 2021, the First Nation sought a court-ordered injunction to prevent any mining activity in a sacred area of their homelands called Wiisinin Zaahgi’igan. The First Nation considers the area to be “breadbasket, its church, its heartland, its graveyard and its hospital,” according to a CBC News article, and Ginoogaming has pushed for an agreement with Ontario to permanently remove the area from mineral activity, and for it to be turned into an Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area (IPCA).
  • The First Nation has also worked with some companies on prospective mining projects. In September 2021, Ginoogaming exercised its inherent jurisdiction over its homelands by issuing a permit and approval to a mining company to conduct mineral exploration in part of its territory.
  • In 2023, Ginoogaming joined the Treaty 9 lawsuit, which alleges that Ontario and Canada have breached the terms of the treaty by excluding First Nations from decision-making processes about the governance and use of lands, waters and resources. The lawsuit calls for a new governance process that would see Ontario share decision-making power with First Nations.

Kashechewan

  • Kashechewan is a Cree community located along the northern shore of the Albany River, with about 1,900 people living on-reserve. The community is only accessible by air or winter ice road, and it shares a total of 5,000 community members with Fort Albany. The community experiences annual flooding in the spring, and is still waiting on long-promised plans from the federal government to relocate the First Nation to higher grounds. It is a member of the Mushkegowuk Council, NAN and Chiefs of Ontario.
  • Along with Fort Albany, Moose Cree and Attawapiskat First Nation, Kashechewan signed an impact benefit agreement with De Beers in relation to its Victor Diamond Mine, but the details of that agreement and the net benefits for the community were never disclosed.
  • Meanwhile, Kashechewan has been active regarding mining claims in the Ring of Fire. In 2022, it joined a group of five First Nations sharing their frustrations at being excluded from the federal government’s regional assessment process for the Ring of Fire. They called for federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault to restart the regional assessment process, including Kashechewan and other regional First Nations as decision-making partners.
  • One year later, Kashechewan joined the Treaty 9 lawsuit, alleging Ontario and Canada have breached the terms of the treaty and that resource extraction on their homelands has infringed upon their jurisdiction over the lands and waters that they live on and use.

Long Lake 58

  • Long Lake 58 is located along the Trans-Canada highway, on the northeast shore of Long Lake. Since time immemorial, people from the community hunted moose and bear in the forests, gathered medicines and berries in the wilderness, fished in the plentiful lakes and streams, and traveled seasonally throughout the watershed. Since 1905, the First Nation has been situated on a one square mile tract of land. The First Nation falls within the geographic boundaries of the Robinson-Superior Treaty of 1850, but has never signed a treaty with the Crown. There are currently about 1400 members of the First Nation, with about 450 people living on-reserve. It is a member of Matawa, NAN and Chiefs of Ontario.
  • The First Nation has been active in asserting its sovereignty and jurisdiction over mining in its homelands. In 2018, Long Lake 58 signed an agreement with Greenstone Gold Mines Inc., which outlines provisions for environmental monitoring, employment, training, business and contracting opportunities for future mining projects in their area.
  • Long Lake 58 has also worked hard to protect parts of their homelands from mineral activity. In December 2022, Ontario withdrew a large area of the First Nations traditional territory from prospecting and mining claim registration because Long Lake 58 asserted an Aboriginal title claim in the area. The provincial government’s decision will be reviewed after three years.

Marten Falls

Neskantaga

  • Neskantaga is a remote Oji-Cree community situated at the headwaters of the Attawapiskat River in the James Bay Lowlands. It is known as having the longest active boil water advisory in Canada, beginning in 1995. There are about 400 members of the First Nation, with some 300 that live on-reserve. It is a member of Matawa, NAN and Chiefs of Ontario.
  • Several consecutive chiefs have declared they would not allow any development in their homelands without their free, prior and informed consent.
  • The First Nation has also been part of several legal actions challenging the impact assessment processes on proposed road and mining projects. Neskantaga was one of three First Nations to declare a moratorium on development in the region with concerns about the cumulative impacts of development in the ecologically important region.
  • In 2022, Neskantaga joined a group of five First Nations sharing their frustrations at being excluded from the federal government’s regional assessment process for the Ring of Fire. They called for federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault to restart the regional assessment process, including Neskantaga and other regional First Nations as decision-making partners.
  • In 2023, Neskantaga also joined the Treaty 9 lawsuit, alleging Ontario and Canada have breached the terms of the treaty and that resource extraction on their homelands has infringed upon their jurisdiction over the lands and waters that they live on and use.

Nibinamik

  • Nibinamik is a remote Oji-Cree First Nation located on the Summer Beaver settlement in northern Ontario. It has a total population of about 440 people, with approximately 280 living on-reserve. The small community has been under a boil water advisory since 2013, and can only be accessed by air or ice road in the winter. It is a member of Matawa, NAN and Chiefs of Ontario.
  • In 2017, Nibinamik was originally a supporter of an extended all-season road network through northern Ontario. It was planning to construct an east-west year-round road project that would connect Webequie and Nibinamik to the provincial highway network, although there have not been any recent public statements about an all-season road that would connect to the First Nation.

Webequie

  • Webequie is a remote Ojibway community on the northern peninsula of Eastwood Island on the Winisk Lake. It is accessible only by air or a seasonal winter road. There are some 1,300 people registered as community members, with about 900 living on-reserve. It is a member of Matawa, NAN and Chiefs of Ontario.
  • The First Nation has been active in relation to developments in the Ring of Fire. It is a proponent for the Webequie Supply Road, a proposed 107 kilometre section of an all-season road that would run from Webequie’s airport to McFaulds Lake, a mineral rich area in the Ring of Fire. The First Nation is also a co-proponent for the Northern Road Link, another proposed section of the road project that would, along with two other road segments, connect the Ring of Fire to the provincial highway network. Chief Cornelius Wabasse has said repeatedly this road network, if approved, would create economic opportunities for community members.
  • In December 2022, Webequie signed a memorandum of understanding with Wyloo, which owns significant mineral claims in the region. Details of the agreement were not released, but a press release said it commits the parties to working together on further mineral exploration in the region as well as the development of the proposed Eagle’s Nest mine project.

Weenusk

  • Weenusk is a remote Cree First Nation situated near the confluence of the Winisk River and the Shamattawa River in northern Ontario. There are about 600 community members registered to Weenusk, with roughly half of the population living on-reserve.
  • Weenusk has been engaged in conversations and assessments related to development in the Ring of Fire. In December 2020, Weenusk was one of several First Nations that wrote to the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada requesting a delay in providing comments about the federal regional assessment of the Ring of Fire. That regional assessment is supposed to assess the cumulative impact of proposed infrastructure and resource development in the ecologically important region.

There are also a number of Indigenous political organizations that represent First Nations included in the list above. Below is a list of some of the organizations and what they’ve said about proposed development.

Matawa First Nations Management

  • Matawa is a non-profit tribal council with nine member Ojibway and Cree First Nations. Established in 1988, the organization provides a variety of advisory and program services for its member Nations, including education, health and social services, housing, environmental, employment, training and communications. It holds regular meetings with chiefs and representatives of the member Nations, and takes their lead on actions and advocacy from their Nations.
  • Matawa First Nations have been at the heart of discussions around the proposed developments in the Ring of Fire almost since the mineral deposits were first discovered. The minerals in the Ring of Fire are in the middle of the homelands of Matawa First Nations. In 2014, the provincial government under Liberal leader Kathleen Wynn’s signed a regional framework agreement with the Matawa First Nations to guide any infrastructure or resource development in the area. But that process struggled to move ahead amidst accusations of the Ontario and Canada governments “playing favourites” and “cutting back room deals” with certain communities. The First Nations — as independent, sovereign governments — have frequently disagreed how development should move forward, if at all. The framework agreement ended in 2019, when the newly elected Progressive Conservative provincial government stopped paying for the regional discussions, and began working with individual First Nations instead.
  • Since then, Matawa First Nations Management has still been very active in the Ring of Fire, with the chiefs and councils of member Nations agreeing on the need for a strong regional assessment. The chiefs and the tribal organization have also been clear that First Nations must hold a decision-making role when it comes to any development in the area, and that the province and federal governments should stop having conversations about the Ring of Fire without them.

Mushkegowuk Council

  • The Mushkegowuk Council is a non-profit regional chiefs’ council that represents seven Cree First Nations located in Treaty 9 in northern Ontario. Mushkegowuk means “people of the muskeg.” The council provides support and advisory services to respond to and meet the social, economic, cultural, educational, spiritual and political needs of their member Nations.
  • Several of the Mushkegowuk First Nations are located on major rivers downstream from the proposed road and mining developments in the Ring of Fire. They have expressed concerns about the cumulative impacts of development in the area, and how it will affect the peatlands, the watershed, and the wildlife in their homelands.
  • Some of the Mushkegowuk Nations have been more active responding to activity in the Ring of Fire, by calling for a moratorium on development. As a whole, the council has called for a thorough regional assessment of the area, saying they need to have a key decision-making role in any future activities.
  • The council has also leads efforts to create an Indigenous-led National Marine Conservation Area in the James Bay and Hudson Bay area, and in 2022 welcomed a major investment through a Project Finance for Permanence initiative to support the project.

Nishnawbe Aski Nation

  • The Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) is a political territorial organization that represents 49 First Nations throughout northern Ontario. Most of the member First Nations signed on to Treaty No. 9 in the early-1900s, while some are members of Treaty No. 5, or have not signed any treaties. Established in 1973, the organization represents approximately 45,000 people that live across two-thirds of Ontario. 
  • The original declaration of rights and principles was made by NAN communities in 1977, and included the right to receive compensation for exploited natural resources, for the destruction of hunting, fishing and gathering rights, and to renegotiate the Treaty as understood by the First Nations People.
  • NAN has typically refrained from making comments specifically about the Ring of Fire, deferring instead to the voices of First Nations and tribal councils to respond to any activities in the region. However, the organization has been focused on broader pieces of legislation that involve land-use planning, resource extraction and treaty rights. NAN was very vocal in their rejection of the Far North Act, for example, when it was introduced and later passed in 2010.
  • More recently, NAN issued a statement in 2019 saying they supported the Ontario government’s decision to review or repeal the Far North Act, adding they believe that would lead to balanced and shared resource development in the Treaty lands in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

Chiefs of Ontario

  • The Chiefs of Ontario is a political advocacy body that works on behalf of the 133 First Nations in the province. They are guided by the Chiefs-in-Assembly, which includes leaders from the Anishinabek, Mushkegowuk, Onkwehonwe and Lenape First Nations. The organization supports the First Nations in the exercise of their jurisdiction and right of self-determination, and advocates for these rights at the provincial and federal level.
  • Similar to NAN, the Chiefs of Ontario have often refrained from commenting specifically about the Ring of Fire area, other than to support the affected First Nations in their efforts to be recognized as having jurisdiction in the area.
  • The organization has focused on broader pieces of legislation that deal with land use, treaty rights, and resource extraction. This includes fierce opposition to the passage of the Far North Act in 2010.

Assembly of First Nations

  • The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is an advocacy organization that represents more than 600 First Nations across Canada, and often participates in meetings with the federal government to advance First Nations inherent and treaty rights, particularly through the development of policy. The assembly meets twice annually to pass resolutions that guide the mandate and actions of the organization’s executive committee.
  • The AFN has rarely addressed issues in the Ring of Fire region specifically, but has held meetings with the federal government addressing broader issues such as revenue sharing from resource extraction projects. It also condemned Ontario’s 2010 Far North Act, because the body said First Nations were not appropriately consulted.
  • The AFN has also served as a forum for chiefs from affected First Nations to discuss and pass resolutions, and garner support regarding developments in the Ring of Fire and the Treaty 9 area.

Animals & Plants

Northern Ontario is home to many species of animals and plants, including culturally important species, as well as endangered species, and northern species that have declined in more developed areas.