Friday, August 28, 2009

Matawa First Nations Wisdom Left out of Legislative Process.

Matawa First Nations Chiefs have released a statement earlier this month, rejecting two proposed mining Bills from the province of Ontario.

Constance Lake Chief Arthur Moore, appearing before the Standing Committee on General Government this month, has raised concerns and disappointment with the process of the Bills. In particular, no public hearings were held in any First Nations Communities - Nibinamik; Constance Lake; Webequie, and Eabametoong. Chief Moore states, "To get a real sense of the North, you have to come to the communities and meet the people ... it is disrespectful to plan meetings that will affect people's lives - away from where they live." He calls for greater respect for communities and for the engagement of community wisdom in drafting such legislation: "The province must take the entire process more seriously, and draft stronger acts that include Matawa First Nations recommendations that were submitted by Chiefs, Counsellors, and Community Members."

The first, Bill 173: An Act to amend the Mining Act, makes several amendments, including the amendment of the purpose clause (Section 2) to include a statement that mining activities are encouraged in a manner consistent with the recognition and affirmation of existing Aboriginal and treaty rights. The new Section 14 also includes a new sub-section (2) giving the Minister discretion to consider any other factors appropriate, including: "... whether the lands meet the prescribed criteria as a site of Aboriginal cultural significance." Nevertheless, the Bill does not guarantee such factors and leaders have expressed concern about its implementation.

The second, Bill 191: The Act with respect to land use planning and protection in the Far North", has been rejected by Matawa First Nations as dividing the Matawa First Nations Tribal Council through the introduction of an arbitrary boundary in order to designate the area to which the Act applies. The boundary actually divides traditional territory in some cases. As a result, Matawa First Nation Chiefs are requesting the withdrawal of Bill 191 and have also asked for changes to Bill 173.

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