Home > News > UPDATE - Ontario government...

UPDATE - Ontario government moves on Ring of Fire roads with FN

Mar 16, 2020

Road to the Ring of Fire Agreement signed by Ontario Government & Two First Nations Ontario and First Nations Working Together to Create Jobs and Prosperity for the North

By Frank Giorno

The Government of Ontario under Premier Doug Ford , Marten Falls First Nation and Webequie First Nation signed an agreement to move forward on the construction of a link to the vast Ring of Fire area. 

“It’s a major step forward in unlocking jobs and opportunity in Northern Ontario's Ring of Fire region by entering into a historic agreement to advance the planning and development of a proposed Northern Road Link," Premier Ford said.

Premier Doug Ford and Greg Rickford, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines and Minister of Indigenous Affairs, were joined by Chief Bruce Achneepineskum of Marten Falls First Nation and Chief Cornelius Wabasse of Webequie First Nation at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) convention for a signing ceremony.

“The government is delivering on its promise to move forward with the development of the Ring of Fire with willing partners, including Indigenous groups and Northern communities,” Premier Ford said.

"After 15 years of delay by the previous government, we said we would build a road to the Ring of Fire, and we are working with our incredible partners in the Marten Falls First Nation and Webequie First Nation to do just that and make sure we do it right," said Premier Ford added. "Together, we can bring jobs and prosperity to communities across the Far North. Promises made, promises kept."

Today's signing marks a new partnership between the government, Marten Falls First Nation and Webequie First Nation to advance planning of critical road infrastructure that would provide reliable, all-season road access to potential mine sites and connect First Nation communities to Ontario's provincial highway network.

"Our government is proud to partner with Marten Falls and Webequie First Nations to support the development of reliable, all-season road infrastructure and move forward with our shared goal of bringing economic prosperity to the region," said Minister Rickford. "Together, with First Nations partners, we are creating a clear path forward to unlock unprecedented social and economic prosperity in the Far North."

The all-season road project would also improve access to health and social services and put in place improved infrastructure, such as high-speed Internet and reliable cellular service, for the First Nations and other communities nearby.

"We look forward to working together with Ontario to ensure the sustainable development of our ancestral territories," said Chief Bruce Achneepineskum, Marten Falls First Nation.

 "Marten Falls First Nation takes seriously our right to make decisions for the betterment of our community. We are moving ahead with this agreement so all communities in the region can connect to the next phase, which is to secure and bring good-paying jobs in mining, construction and other skilled trades to our communities."

"Webequie First Nation supports responsible development in our territory," said Chief Cornelius Wabasse, Webequie First Nation. "We have been working together with Ontario for many years to reach this point. We believe that road development will help bring prosperity to communities across the region and better infrastructure - both on and off-reserve. We understand that road development will impact our traditional territories but believe this is a positive step forward to unlocking new opportunities that will benefit all surrounding First Nation communities."

Predictably, the Ontario Liberals were dismissive of the announcement and so were the New Democrats. Michael Mantha, the NDP Critic for Northern Development and Mines castigated Ford failing for mismanaging the on Ring of Fire file, but his use of the word mismanaged was essentially, unqualified.

 “The Liberals left office with only three agreements signed with First Nations, out of at least nine that are needed, to get moving on the Ring of Fire, and after two years, Doug Ford and his government have managed to rip up those agreements, destroy the regional framework agreement, then get two of nine agreements signed,” said Mantha in a news release issued immediately after the signing of the agreement between Ontario and Webequie and Marten Falls First Nations.

“Three steps backward and two steps forward does not equal progress – at this rate, the Ring of Fire may never be built,” Mantha added.

Meanwhile, former Ontario Premier, Kathleen Wynne, claimed it was her government that paved the groundwork that enabled Ford to announce the road agreement with Webequie and Marten Falls.

Wynne said the previous Liberal government "paved the path" for Premier Doug Ford's “newly announced” road to the Ring of Fire region and suggests the Progressive Conservatives should "recognize" the work of their predecessors.

Speaking with CTV News Toronto, Wynne said her Liberal government negotiated a framework agreement three First Nations to build an all-season access road that would help unlock development in the resource-rich area and suggested that the Ford government piggybacked off the relationship.

"I don't begrudge the government coming to the next stage of an agreement," Wynne to CTV News. "The fact is that the only reason he was able to get that agreement is because for two years we worked with all nine First Nations, we had difficult conversations, we wrangled things out and we came to a framework agreement."

What the Agreement Means:

  • The Northern Road Link would connect to the proposed Marten Falls Community Access Road at the south end and to the proposed Webequie Supply Road at the north end.
  • The agreement outlines Ontario’s support for respective First Nations to advance environmental assessments for their all-season road projects and to initiate the planning and development of the proposed Northern Road Link.
  • Both First Nations are firm in their resolve to meet all regulatory requirements and fulfil their role as environmental stewards. The use of traditional knowledge will guide business and environmental decision making. Ontario continues to be committed to meeting its duty to consult for all road infrastructure development.
  • Current estimates on the Ring of Fire, located approximately 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay and covering about 5,000 square kilometres, suggest multi-generational potential for chromite production, as well as production of nickel, copper and platinum.
  • In October 2019, Ontario announced an investment of $30 million in the Matawa broadband project to provide modern and scalable telecommunication services to five Matawa-member communities: Nibinamik, Neskantaga, Eabametoong, Marten Falls and Webequie First Nations
  • Modern broadband infrastructure will provide these communities with improved access to social, health, education and training resources as well as support economic development opportunities, including Ring of Fire development

For more information please visit: 

Tags: Northern Ontario / New Projects / Metals / All Articles