Thunder Bay, Tuesday 9th November 2004: The Chiefs of Matawa First Nations are publicly stating their collaborative rejection of the proposed Hydro Site Allocation policy that is set to be announced by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Following a presentation by Minister David Ramsey at the NAN Chiefs Assembly in Thunder Bay on November 4th 2004, the Matawa Chiefs agree that the proposed policy does not meet their expectations or provide the adequate foundations for First Nations to pursue Hydro development opportunities.
The Matawa Chiefs believe that the proposed policy neither addresses the need to engage First Nations in a formal communications format, nor provides sufficient clarity with respect to First Nation involvement in hydro development opportunities in the North. The Minister was able to divulge the content of the policy during the meeting last week but when questioned by the Chiefs, he could not adequately explain how the policy will be implemented in a practical manner for First Nations. The Matawa Chiefs were seeking a much stronger definition surrounding the MNR’s commitment to economic development opportunities.
On behalf of the Matawa Chiefs, Chief Charlie O’Keese of Eabametoong First Nation stated; “What the Minister had to say may sound good on the surface but we need a hard written definition in order for our communities to support this policy. At present, the Minister is asking us to support a policy that we have not seen and that he has only talked about. Historically, this approach by government to First Nations has resulted in the loss of opportunity for First Nations. If this policy is as good as Minister Ramsey claims, then why has it not been presented to First Nations for a thorough review?”
Chief Veronica Waboose says; “It is completely inappropriate for the Ministry to ask the First Nations to blindly approve a policy that we have not been given the opportunity to review. One particular note of concern from my understanding of the policy is that it divides Ontario First Nations, giving some First Nations in the far North direct award of sites but telling the rest of the First Nations in the South that they will not be offered the same level of opportunity. I find it inconceivable that the Province would want to introduce such a divisive and contentious document at a time when the Matawa communities have worked so hard to build relationships with the Province and its various ministries.”
The Matawa First Nation Chiefs have sent an official letter to the Premier, Dalton McGuinty to request intervention and mediation in resolving these issues for the benefit of all concerned parties.
The Matawa communities have repeatedly stated that they are not opposed to development but that they are no longer prepared to witness the ongoing lack of opportunity provided to First Nation communities.
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