Timmins, ON: Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) has condemned the passing of climate change legislation by the Government of Ontario today as a misleading and misguided approach to a green economy that will have significant and far-reaching effects across NAN territory.
“In its announcement today the Government of Ontario lauds extensive consultations before the adoption of this legislation, including engagement with First Nations. We find this offensive in its lack of truth, as neither NAN nor our communities were consulted before the adoption of this bill,” said Deputy Grand Chief Derek Fox. “Our First Nations are not blind to the fact that this legislation produces potentially huge financial windfalls for Ontario, and they are justifiably concerned that there is no mention in the legislation of how these gains will be shared with them.”
NAN is demanding a meeting with Premier Kathleen Wynne, Environment Minister Glen Murray and other members of cabinet to examine the ramifications of their government’s actions. The Premier met with NAN leadership last week where she recognized the significance of this relationship and expressed a commitment to work collaboratively on solutions to meet the needs of NAN First Nations. If this government is serious about working with NAN, meaningful discussions must take place to ensure that NAN First Nations are involved at every step.
NAN has expressed concern since the introduction of Bill 172: Climate Change Mitigation and Low-carbon Economy Act, 2016. Bill 172 does not guarantee that First Nation traditional ecological knowledge will be incorporated and does not specify a formal process for direct involvement or benefits by NAN First Nations. The boreal forest in NAN territory is one of the largest potential carbon sinks to mitigate global climate change, but this legislation does not identify how these benefits will be allocated to NAN First Nations as Ontario moves towards a cap and trade economy.
“First Nations have the right to free, prior and informed consent on any legislation that impacts Aboriginal and Treaty rights and we are shocked that this government has turned its back on international conventions like the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Peoples that respect and uphold these rights,” said Fox. “Ontario has a long history of rushing legislation without adequately engaging NAN First Nations. Bill 172 and the previously enacted Far North Act have serious implications for First Nation Treaty, economic, social, environmental, financial and legal rights, and those rights must be respected.”
Fox outlined how NAN First Nations must be fully engaged in any approach to address
climate change that affects NAN territory during a presentation at Queen’s Park in April. He
expressed NAN’s willingness to work on global solutions to climate change and
recommended a defined process to engage in a collaborative effort that respects Aboriginal
and Treaty rights, with permanent processes and sufficient resources and to work
a defined processes for direct input into climate change legislation and programs;
guaranteed funding to gather traditional knowledge and technical and economic
assessments of the impacts of climate change on NAN territory and its people;
management of resources and benefits attributable to the boreal forest and land
within NAN territory; and
a commitment to work co-operatively to effectively manage the impacts of climate
change on NAN First Nations and its people.