TORONTO, April 30 - Anishinabek Nation leader John Beaucage, currently campaigning for the office of National Chief, has applauded a new legislative process undertaken by the Province of Ontario to amend its century-old Mining Act.
"The Mining Amendment Act will be the first piece of provincial legislation that expressly recognizes and affirms First Nations Treaty and aboriginal rights," said the Grand Council Chief, on behalf of 42 member Anishinabek First Nations. "Ontario's new collaborative approach to developing legislation and public policy is certainly innovative. It is respectful to the recognition of our rights and indicative of the province's commitment to working with First Nations on a government-to-government basis."
Introduced today, the Act includes provisions for First Nations to protect from mining development lands that have culturally-significant sites. Beaucage said the new legislation means the Crown, industry and all stakeholders must recognize and affirm the Treaties.
"Ministers Gravelle and Duguid deserve credit for their vision and have shown real leadership at the Cabinet table," said Beaucage. "We hope this process is reflected in the development of all future laws that may have an impact on First Nations."
New provisions for digital map staking and notification of First Nation communities also protect sensitive areas within traditional territories from unwanted exploitation.
One significant amendment to the existing Mining Act requires developers to create work plans for provincial approval outlining how they will be engaging with and consulting with First Nations.
"Consultation and accommodation of First Nations interests on our traditional territories is absolutely necessary," said Beaucage. "However, we have to move beyond basic consultation towards engagement and signing of impact benefit agreements between mining companies and First Nations. Agreements are the most practical means of achieving consent, collaboration and obtaining support for any given project."
An Anishinabek Nation consultation process produced 31 specific recommendations of over 100 submitted by First Nations through a technical table led by Ministry of Northern Development and Mines.
"Certainly, the new Mining Amendment Act does not fully address all the concerns of our First Nations -- such as our opposition to uranium development, stronger involvement in decision-making processes, and stronger protections on water and the environment," said Beaucage. "However, we will take these small victories and continue to advocate for our communities and actively encourage mining development and exploration and dialogue in our territory."
Grand Council Chief Beaucage is encouraging the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines to include grass-roots First Nations and their mining technical experts in the development of corresponding regulations and throughout the implementation of the new Mining Amendment Act.
The Anishinabek Nation established the Union of Ontario Indians as its political advocate and secretariat in 1949. The Union of Ontario Indians is the oldest political organization in Ontario and can trace its roots back to the Confederacy of Three Fires that have existed long before European contact.
For further information: Bob Goulais, Executive Assistant to the Grand Council Chief, (705) 498-5250, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org;. Marci Becking, Communications Officer, Union of Ontario Indians, Phone: (705) 497-9127 (ext. 2290), Cell: (705) 494-0735 ,E-mail: email@example.com.