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Minister ‘considering next steps’ for Ring of Fire assessment

Originally published in The Toronto Star

January 24, 2022

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault is considering “next steps” in response to the joint letter sent by First Nations chiefs last week, according to a federal government spokesperson.

Last week, Attawapiskat, Fort Albany, Neskantaga, Kashechewan and Eabametoong First Nations chiefs sent a joint letter to Guilbeault after a virtual meeting to talk about the Ring of Fire.

They expressed concerns about the Ring of Fire terms of reference for the Regional Impact Assessment in the carbon-rich peatlands known as the Breathing Lands.

“The Government of Canada recognizes the need for meaningful consultation and engagement with Indigenous peoples throughout the implementation of the Impact Assessment Act,” Karen Fish, Impact Assessment Agency of Canada spokesperson, said in an email. “The Minister would like to thank the Indigenous Chiefs for their letter and is considering next steps.”

Fish said the Jan. 17 meeting was productive and “provided the minister with the opportunity to interact directly with communities and hear their important perspectives regarding the regional assessment in the Ring of Fire Area.”

The Ring of Fire is located in northwestern Ontario, with communities along the James Bay coast in northeastern Ontario being downstream of the development before the water ultimately flows into Hudson Bay.

In the letter, the chiefs said there needs to be an Indigenous-led investigation and decision-making process regarding the Breathing Lands and called Canada to restart “afresh” with Indigenous nations mutually and equally participating in developing, enforcing and leading the Regional Impact Assessment.

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