NAN statement on Far North Land Use Planning bill



    THUNDER BAY, ON, June 2 /CNW/ - Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief
Stan Beardy responded to the Far North Land Use Planning bill introduced by
the Government of Ontario in the Legislature today.
    "I believe the Premier's vision is that First Nations will have a real
say in the future of their homelands. That is a commendable goal, but I'm not
sure this first draft of the legislation gets us there," said Nishnawbe Aski
Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Stan Beardy. "We'll keep working with the Government
of Ontario to develop legislation we can all support. It is my hope that by
fall I can stand alongside the Premier and the Minister of Natural Resources
and tell all Ontarians what we have accomplished."
    The Far North Land Use Planning legislation deals with planning in the
northern two-thirds of Ontario, the most important part of the province in
terms of future resource development.
    "Only one of the dozens of communities in the Far North is not a First
Nation, and our interests in this legislation could not be higher. The
Government of Ontario is legislating about our homelands - about our home. We
are the North. We have to make sure Ontario gets this right," said Beardy. "It
is critical that any development of natural resources in the Far North must
respect Aboriginal and treaty rights while supporting an environmentally
sustainable economic future for our people."

    
    In considering the draft legislation, NAN First Nations will be looking
for:

    -  First Nations leadership - First Nations must have the opportunity for
       a leadership role in deciding overarching land use strategy and in
       creating individual land use plans.
    -  Development with First Nation support - Many First Nations support
       community projects such as hydro or wind power, or larger projects
       such as mining or forestry, provided these projects are implemented
       respectfully.
    -  Funding must be appropriate to meet the Land Use Planning needs of
       each community, and it should be easy to access, stable, multi-year,
       multi-million, and administered independently of the Ontario
       ministries. Without dollars, the land use planning promises will be
       hollow.
    -  Protected areas - Protected areas must be defined with First Nations
       consent and in a manner consistent with First Nations understandings,
       and put under First Nation management.
    -  Past grievances - There is a long and often painful legacy in First
       Nations' dealings with Ontario's conservation officers. A process is
       needed to address these past grievances.
    -  Plan development, approval and implementation - The development,
       approval and implementation of the land use plans must enable control
       by First Nations, support Aboriginal and Treaty rights, and not
       compromise community autonomy.
    -  Inherent rights - First Nations have a relationship with the Creator,
       and a responsibility and an obligation to care for the land. Our
       inherent rights will never be legislated because that is who we are
       and we will remain.
    -  Treaty and Aboriginal rights - Land was not surrendered by First
       Nations under Treaty 9 and Treaty 5. First Nations will exercise their
       Treaty and Aboriginal rights in all of NAN territory. First Nations
       will not agree to anything that will jeopardize or compromise their
       rights.
    

    In March 2009, NAN's 49 Chiefs passed a resolution against the Government
of Ontario's unilateral goal of establishing 225,000 square kilometres of
protected areas in the NAN homelands, as announced by the Far North Planning
Initiative in July 2008. In that resolution, they directed that the NAN First
Nations work with Ontario to discuss, develop and implement First Nation-led
land planning and governance decisions.
    "We are not against resource development, but we will continue to insist
upon a mechanism through which NAN First Nations will be consulted and will
have meaningful input into the decision-making process, and we hope that all
of our recommendations will be given full consideration at that point," said
Beardy. "We welcome the opportunity to work together, but our gauge of the
success this process will ultimately be reflected by how much of our input is
reflected in this legislation."

    Nishnawbe Aski Nation is a political territorial organization
representing 49 First Nation communities in James Bay Treaty 9 and Ontario
portions of Treaty 5 - an area covering two thirds of the province of Ontario.




For further information:

For further information: Michael Heintzman, Media Relations Officer -
Nishnawbe Aski Nation, (807) 625-4906 or (807) 621-2790 mobile

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NISHNAWBE ASKI NATION

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