A better future beckons
The August 21 announcement in Thunder Bay that the provincial government “is working with Webequie, Marten Falls and Nibinamik First Nations to plan and construct a year-round access road” to the Ring of Fire may have given the impression that the First Nation communities had actually agreed to the construction of such a road. No. As the cleverly worded press release from Premier Kathleen Wynne’s office clearly states, the province is simply “working with” them to plan and construct a road.
As Minister of Northern Development and Mines Michael Gravelle confirms in this issue of Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal, First Nation agreement on an east-west road to Noront Resources’ Eagle’s Nest nickel-copper-PGM project and the world-class chromite deposits nearby is dependent on conversations the communities are having with their members.
Who will own the road and manage its construction is also up in the air, but at least there is the impression of progress. I can’t blame government for trying to move the yardsticks. This is, as Minister Gravelle notes, “a complicated process.”
We can only hope that the conversations go well and that the people of the three First Nations most directly affected by the development of the Ring of Fire embrace the opportunity to put an end to the unemployment, poverty, dependence and isolation that is their current lot.
The mining industry has demonstrated a commitment to working with First Nation communities to provide them with employment and business opportunities, and both industry and government are committed to limiting the impact of resource development on the environment.
How else can First Nation communities plagued by unemployment, poverty, substance abuse, poor housing, boil water advisories, and poor health change their trajectory? The pride and material wellbeing that are all part of having a regular paycheque and being self-sufficient will go a long way toward raising the standard of living in these remote communities.
We are rightfully embarrassed by the substandard living conditions of Indigenous communities in one of the wealthiest countries in the world and dependence on government is clearly not the answer.
Sure, Noront Resources has as its objective the opportunity to generate profit from the resources buried in the Ring of Fire, but through training, job readiness initiatives, employment and business opportunities, the people of Webiquie, Nibinamik, Marten Falls and other First Nation communities – and most especially their youth – will finally have a chance to hold their heads high.