Leaders representing several First Nations from the Ring of Fire region in northern Ontario gave Premier Doug Ford notice that they will not allow any mining activity on their land. During a press conference Tuesday at Queen's Park in Toronto, the leaders conveyed their frustration at Ford’s failure to meet directly with them to discuss mining claims in their territories.

“Ford has shown nothing but disrespect to us. If he can't even meet with us face-to-face, what hope do we have of achieving free, prior and informed consent,” said Chief Moonias of Neskantaga First Nation. "Neskantaga will continue to fight against these oppressive and dismissive tactics.”

Indigenous leaders from Grassy Narrows, Wapekeka, Neskantaga, Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug and Muskrat Dam are united under the banner of the Land Defence Alliance, a coalition formed earlier this year in response to the surge in mining claims on their traditional territories.

The alliance says Ford has allowed approximately 5,000 mining claims to be staked on their territory without their consent or courtesy of prior notice. Yet, the premier has not granted the First Nations the basic respect of a meeting, it says.

The Indigenous leaders are concerned about the potential impact of mining in the Ring of Fire, an area rich in metals needed for electric vehicles and batteries. It is billed by the Ford government as an essential plank in Ontario’s vision to be a comprehensive manufacturing chain for electric vehicles.

The alliance invited Ford to meet with them in front of the legislature on Tuesday. However, Ford was a no-show. Instead, he sent Indigenous Affairs Minister Greg Rickford as his representative. The alliance leaders refused to meet with Rickford and insisted on a meeting with Premier Ford directly.

They are pressing Ford to sign a declaration committing to cease mining activities on their lands unless the First Nations grant their free, prior and informed consent.

“Sending a minister with no real authority to resolve our concerns is an insult,” said Grassy Narrows Chief Rudy Turtle. “The buck stops with Ford and we demand to meet with him. He makes time for developers and mining executives, he should make time for us. It is not too late for Ford to do the right thing: Meet with us and commit to respect our right to say ‘No’ to industry.”

Canada’s National Observer reached out to the premier's office for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

The alliance says Ford has allowed approximately 5,000 mining claims to be staked on their territory without their consent or courtesy of prior notice. Yet, the premier has not granted the First Nations the basic respect of a meeting.

Ontario's Ring of Fire region represents one of the province's most significant prospects for critical minerals mining. About 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, the area covers approximately 5,000 square kilometres. According to the Ontario Ministry of Mines, the Ring of Fire boasts substantial long-term potential for the extraction of essential minerals, including chromite, cobalt, nickel, copper and platinum. These critical minerals are integral to the advancement of low- and zero-emission vehicles and transportation, facilitating the transition toward a cleaner, more sustainable global economy.

Members of the Land Defence Alliance, accompanied by community members and supporters, plan to march from Grange Park in downtown Toronto to Queen's Park on Wednesday to voice their concerns.

NDP MPP Marit Stiles, leader of the official Opposition, attended the meeting table with the First Nations leaders outside Queen’s Park and criticized Ford for not participating. “You have attempted many times to have the premier come to meet with you. It's evident that this government hasn't grasped the message yet, so we will persist in delivering that message.”

Stiles emphasized that Ford needs to hear directly from community members experiencing the impacts of resource extraction in their communities. She pledged to raise their concerns in the legislature.

The Ontario government’s critical minerals strategy is intricately tied to the province's recently launched auto sector plan, known as “Driving Prosperity.” Its goal is to see Ontario-based automakers manufacture 400,000 electric and hybrid vehicles annually by 2030. These vehicles will be powered by locally produced batteries, utilizing minerals that have been extracted and processed in the province, the plan states.

The government seeks to position Ontario as a dependable supplier of critical minerals, the strategy states. There are six key focus areas, including the introduction of financial incentives to encourage critical minerals exploration, investments in research and development, and the enhancement of the province's mining regulations.

According to the government, Ontario's mining industry already makes a substantial contribution to the provincial economy, generating annual mineral production valued at over $10 billion and supporting a total of 75,000 direct and indirect jobs. It serves as the largest private sector employer of Indigenous Peoples in Canada, accounting for 11.2 per cent of direct mining jobs in Ontario.

This story was produced in partnership with Journalists for Human Rights for the Afghan Journalists-in-Residence program funded by the Meta Journalism Project.

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feds have already said province should be looking to mine needed minerals much closer to the actual places where industry is and those places exist. Because, as this article doesn't mention, that would prevent mines destroying remote peatlands ( first destroy the water system by building roads through muskeg and waterways of course) and thus prevent releasing the BILLIONS of tons of stored carbon that peat has been doing for 8,000 years!! in the BREATHING LANDS ( Yehewin Aski in Cree).

btw that happens in Alberta’s tarsands to add insult to toxic injury, but now we KNOW how stupid that is for the survival of humans this century