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Gravelle to consider Matawa proposal

Thursday September 16, 2010

Aroland chief gives deadline for response

Ministry of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry Minister Michael Gravelle is planning to respond to a $2.1 million Matawa First Nations Ring of Fire funding proposal.

“We take their request very seriously,” Gravelle said during an Aug. 26 interview on Ring of Fire issues. “We will be responding to the request and I am very confident and optimistic we will continue to have a positive relationship with all the Matawa First Nations.”

Gravelle said the challenge is to have the Ring of Fire development done in an environmentally sustainable manner.

“This is complicated,” Gravelle said. “This is going to take a great deal of work. It is going to take a great deal of respect and trust between all the organizations, the groups, the First Nations, the companies and the government – all those that are involved.”

Gravelle said that is the goal of the provincial government as well as his goal as minister.

“We do want to see the opportunities happen and move forward in terms of economic development, but we recognize it is not without its challenges,” Gravelle said. “Certainly that is my goal and my commitment, and it is on that basis that I respect and understand Matawa’s request for funding for their specific needs.”

Aroland Chief Sonny Gagnon set a Sept. 15 deadline for responses from Gravelle and two other Ontario ministers for the $2.1 million Ring of Fire funding proposal, which included funding requests for Matawa technical support, eight communications liaison officers, a Ring of Fire co-ordinator and the Matawa First Nations Technical Committee.

“This isn’t the first time the province has seen this proposal, we presented it back in April,” Gagnon said. “It isn’t new and should be acted on immediately.”

Gagnon and a number of other Matawa chiefs met with Gravelle, Attorney General Chris Bentley and Ministry of Natural Resources Minister Linda Jeffrey in mid-August to request the funding to better prepare their First Nation communities for upcoming Ring of Fire initiatives.

“It was a great disappointment that there wasn’t any sort of tangible commitment from the Ministers in attendance,” said Constance Lake Chief Arthur Moore. “This funding is critical for our communities to move forward. No development of any kind will happen in the Matawa First Nations traditional territory unless each individual community is consulted and accommodated, and in order to do that, we need proper resources in place.”

Funding had been provided in the past to support the Interim Mineral Measures Process, a document that provides guidelines on how communities interact with the mineral exploration and mining industry.

“The IMMP is just a starting point for dialogue to begin and to bring First Nations and mineral companies together on some common understandings,” Moore said. “In order to continue the process, our people need to be properly informed.”

While the provincial government had announced in the 2010 Ontario budget that $45 million will be allocated over the next three years for a new project-based skills training program to help First Nations communities and northern Ontarians participate in economic development opportunities, such as the Ring of Fire, Gagnon said the funding announcement was not specific enough.

“First Nations need to be more of a priority when it comes to development in the Ring of Fire,” Gagnon said. “Our First Nations continue to work together, not only with the Matawa communities but with regional municipalities. It is time that these actions be supported and taken seriously.”

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