BREAKING! Neskantaga launches Ring of Fire action.
Neskantaga Nation has launched a legal challenge to push back against reckless mining development in the Ring of Fire.
Though the Neskantaga community has been without clean drinking water for over 25 years, Ontario is rushing to approve road-building and mineral exploration permits along the Attawapiskat River in the James Bay region of northern Ontario.
Who are the Neskantaga People?
Neskantaga First Nation is an Ojibwe community situated along the shores of Attawapiskat Lake. The community is located in the district of Kenora, 436 kilometers northeast of Thunder Bay, Ontario.
The Neskantaga culture is intertwined with three river systems that connect their community on Attawapiskat Lake with James Bay: the Attawapiskat, the Winisk and the Albany drainages. Neskantaga members fill their freezers with sturgeon, moose, ducks, berries and other foods from their homeland. History is rich in this area. The ancestors of Neskantaga were involved in the fur trade since the late 1600s, with ancient Anishnawbe communities in the region dating back to at least 3,000 BCE.
The second largest peatland in the world — and a massive carbon sink — the Attawapiskat watershed is home to Indigenous Peoples whose food, medicine, cultural and traditional practices depend upon the health of the region’s extensive river networks and wildlife habitats.
What is the Ring of Fire?
The Ring of Fire is located within the vast James Bay boreal lowlands. The landscape is an expanse of marshy muskeg and sensitive peat bogs, dotted with black spruce, jack pine, and white birch. It is home to iconic boreal creatures such as caribou, lake sturgeon and wolverines. It is possibly the largest intact boreal forest remaining in the world, a globally significant wetland, and a massive carbon storehouse. Neskantaga Elders call the muskeg wetlands, “The Breathing Lands” because they keep carbon and methane reserves out of the atmosphere, benefiting the entire planet and all future generations. It is a landscape that has sustained the lifeways of Anishinaabe and Anishini peoples since time immemorial.
Since the early 2000s, significant deposits of chromite, nickel, copper, platinum, vanadium, zinc, and gold have been found in the Ring of Fire region. Ontario is eager to develop these deposits, with a long-term goal of constructing several mines and a potential refinery.
About This Campaign
In October 2021, the government of Ontario approved the Terms of Reference, and initiated an Environmental Assessment for the first of segments of an access road into the Ring of Fire — a massive mineral deposit in the James Bay Lowlands.
Neskantaga’s legal action challenges the Ontario government for failing to fulfil its duty to consult and accommodate, by conducting the consultation in a way that made it difficult if not impossible for Neskantaga to participate.
Neskantaga has well-defined, centuries-old community protocols around consultations on land and resources, which includes bringing the whole community together to discuss and consider proposed projects in their territory. This was obviously impossible during pandemic lockdowns; Ontario pressed on regardless.
Neskantaga First Nation is asking the court to clarify the process that must be followed for consulting with First Nations under Ontario’s Environmental Assessment Act, to ensure the Crown fulfills its duty to consult and accommodate.
In response, today Neskantaga Nation has launched a legal challenge to defend its constitutionally protected rights.
In the middle of the pandemic, while Neskantaga was dealing with lockdowns, Canada’s longest boil-water advisory, and community evacuations, Ontario started the clock on a key access road project that would enable a massive expansion of mining in the Ring of Fire. In their haste to develop the road, the province imposed impossible deadlines, disregarded Neskantaga’s laws and protocols for community decision-making, and failed to accommodate the multiple crises the Nation was facing.
Donate to stand with Neskantaga Nation as they push for their Free, Prior and Informed Consent!