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Opinion: To develop Ontario’s Ring of Fire, we must develop trust with First Nations – The Globe and Mail

March 17, 2023

Virginia Heffernan is a mining writer and the author of Ring of Fire: High-Stakes Mining in a Lowlands Wilderness.

One of the barriers to development in the Ring of Fire, a mineral-rich area in Ontario’s far north, is lack of trust. The Ring of Fire metal deposits lie within Treaty Nine lands. Signed by the Crown and the region’s First Nations at the beginning of the 20th century, the treaty allowed the Crown to acquire land from Cree and Ojibway peoples in the James Bay Lowlands for white settlement and resource development. In exchange, Indigenous peoples were promised cash payments, reserves to live on, education for their children and hunting, fishing and trapping rights.

But the Crown established the reserves on the least desirable land. It sent Indigenous children to residential schools, where they were stripped of their language and culture and often abused. It granted private entities the right to exploit the region’s natural resources with little to no compensation for – and certainly no revenue sharing with – Indigenous communities. As a result, many of the residents of the James Bay Lowlands live in poverty, deprived of some of the most basic human rights, including clean drinking water and housing. Is it any wonder many distrust promises made by government and industry?

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