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Neskantaga First Nation taking Ontario to court over ‘inadequate’ consultation on Ring of Fire

Originally published in CBC News

30 November 2021

Province has ‘no tools in the toolbox for dealing with Indigenous communities in crisis,’ lawyer says

Neskantaga First Nation is taking Ontario to court looking for “ground rules” on how the province should consult and accommodate Indigenous communities that are in a state of crisis.

The remote Oji-Cree First Nation, located about 430 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, has been under a boil-water advisory for 26 years and a state of emergency since 2013, when seven people died by suicide in less than a year. Those issues have been compounded by the pandemic, leaving Neskantaga ill-equipped to engage in what the province has presented as consultation on a project to build a road through its territory to the mineral-rich Ring of Fire, community leaders say.

The lawsuit, filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Nov. 23, says the First Nation is looking for clarity after its “recent experience of inadequate consultations on a component of a larger road project that will run through [the First Nation’s] homelands,” and that the province’s Environmental Assessment Act “is completely silent” on how to consult Indigenous communities in crisis.

“They’re not asking us. They’re trying to force us to change our way of life forever,” said former Chief Chris Moonias. “If we’re not going to be able to decide, then [the government] will be facing opposition.”

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