The Ontario Government just announced plans to protect 56 million acres of Northern Boreal forest from all industry. The area falls entirely in the traditional territories of 36 First Nations communities, who are mostly affiliated with the Nishnaabe Aski Nation. The plan commits to bringing protection in Ontario’s roadless Northern Boreal region up to 50% of the land base.
The government release states that “[p]lanning at the community level will be a true partnership. Because any decision on development has the greatest affect on communities, local planning will only be done in agreement with First Nations… To ensure proper planning and community input, new forestry and the opening of new mines in the
Far North would require community land use plans supported by local Aboriginal communities.”
If properly implemented, the commitment to require community “support” for new forestry and mines, and for local planning “done in agreement” with First Nations could be a big step forward in enforcing the right of Indigenous communities to free, prior, and informed consent over land-use decisions on their territories. This is a clear outcome of the power that First Nations communities like Grassy Narrows, KI, Ardoch, and Six Nations have built in Ontario.
It is still unclear how these commitments to First Nations controlled planning will be reconciled with the pre-determined goal of 50% protection, nor is it clear whether similar planning will be promised to First Nations in the rest of the province. It is also unclear what the fate of the remaining 50% of this ecologically intact region will be.
The planned protected area is as large as the entire US roadless areas network, 80 times the size of Yosemite National Park, and half the size of California.
Check back in soon for some analysis and for a RAN position on this development.
Government of Ontario press release
Nishnaabe Aski Nation news release
Matawa First Nations respond to Ontario’s Far North Planning Initiative
Chiefs of Ontario statement
Union of Ontario Indians statement
KI Friends Blog
Indian Country: Ontario presents plan of permanent protection
Wawatay News: Early FN consultation part of Far North planning Initiative
Globe and Mail: Ontario vows to protect boreal forest
Toronto Star: Ontario to protect vast tract
Toronto Star: Ontario First Nations demand firm right to say ‘no’ to mining developments
Toronto Star: Premier gives ‘natures way’ a chance
Toronto Star: Proceed with caution on boreal promise
Toronto Sun: Vast forest protected – somewhere
Toronto Sun: Mine Deal Rocks North
Kenora Daily Miner: Province to work with First Nations on consultation process
Canadian Mining Journal: Half of Northern Ontario now off-limits to mineral industry
Canadian Mining Journal: More thoughts on protecting Ontario’s boreal forests
Map of NAN communities and lands
Sept. 21 action with Grassy, KI, Ardoch, and CPT
June 25, 07 action at Provincial Legislature with Grassy and KI , and CPT