Public comments on the Ring of Fire Regional Assessment Proposal

Reference Number

Below are selected comments from the York University EUC graduate class in Environmental Resource Management, shared with permission. 

Re: Draft Agreement to provide a Regional Assessment in the Ring of Fire Area

(Reference 80468)

 I am writing in my capacity as a member of the public of Ontario to provide comments on the Draft Agreement to provide a Regional Assessment in the Ring of Fire area.

I begin by noting the concerns expressed by numerous First Nations and their representatives about the inadequate role of Indigenous peoples both in formulating the Draft Agreement and in this consultation process itself.

 In particular, a group of five First Nations have recently called for the terms of reference for the Regional Assessment to be entirely rescinded, and that the Regional Assessment process be co-designed through an First Nations-led process that takes into account a broader geographic area and wider range of activities.[1] As well, I understand that the Friends of Attawapiskat River sought an extension of the 60 day consultation period with respect to the Draft Agreement, and that it was denied.[2] Given that the entirety of this consultation period has taken place over the course of a significant wave of COVID-19, at a time when in-person consultation has not been possible, and when COVID-19 has continued to have significant health impacts on Indigenous communities, the extension request seems very reasonable.

 Moreover, I believe the above-noted concerns should be given special weight in light of Canada’s commitments under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) including its commitment to obtain clear, prior informed consent before implementing measures that may affect Indigenous peoples.

 This is particularly important given the recent enactment of the UNDRIP Act (S.C., 2021, c.14), which states in its preamble that:

 ?     UNDRIP is now “affirmed as a source for the interpretation of Canadian law”;

 ?     Canada has committed to taking “effective measures — including legislative, policy and administrative measures — at the national and international level, in consultation and cooperation with Indigenous peoples, to achieve the objectives of [UNDRIP]”; and that

 ?     Canada has committed to ensuring that “all relations with Indigenous peoples […] be based on the recognition and implementation of the inherent right to self-determination, including the right of self-government”.[3]

 The Department of Justice has also affirmed that one goal of the UNDRIP Act is to strengthen Nation-to-Nation relationships.[4] One way to help achieve this important goal would be to ensure that Indigenous nations have more equal power in the crafting of this regional assessment process.

 If the Regional Assessment process continues as planned, then I would like to offer the following specific comments regarding the Draft Agreement: 

? I believe the preamble should include an express reference to the Government of Canada’s commitments under UNDRIP and the UNDRIP Act. 

? More meaningful Indigenous representation and leadership should be required at the decision-making level, not just at the advisory level.

 ? I agree with the proposal in section 9.0 to provide funding to facilitate participation by Indigenous peoples. I believe that at a minimum, this needs to specifically state that funding will be sufficient to enable meaningful participation, including at a governance level, in accordance with rights granted under UNDRIP and the UNDRIP Act.

?     I also strongly support the inclusion of a health impact assessment as recommended by Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada in their written submission made on January 22, 2021.


Thank you very much for considering my comments.

[1] LETTER: Chiefs pen letter to federal minister after Ring of Fire meeting. Jan 20, 2022. Timmons Today.

[2] Petition opposes Ring of Fire, Regional Assessment in the area. Jan 14, 2022. Timmons Today.


[4] News Release: Government of Canada advances implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. Dec 10, 2021. Department of Justice.


While exploration permits have been granted by the Provincial Government to Norton Resources, a thorough regional assessment has not been conducted. After many public appeals, the government has agreed to conduct a regional assessment. However, the draft agreement to conduct a regional assessment in the Ring of Fire is insufficient in 5 significant ways. These deficiencies include the lack of accordance to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP), omission of significant developments such as a road network within the scope and analysis and effects subsections, overall framework from the Federal and Provincial governments to employ a reactive versus proactive approach, lack of emphasis that Canada and Ontario have a global responsibility to protect, maintain, and sustainably manage our natural resources, and the lack of methodology and accountability framework. The reason for which the regional assessment is important is due to large-scale cumulative effects of the mine and associated infrastructure not being studied. Given how the various mining projects are estimated to operate over the next 100 years, a thorough regional assessment that examines the cumulative effects need to be considered before development takes place (Gamble, 2017; Kitching, 2020; Brooks, 2021; WCS 2021).

         Regional assessments consider the cumulative impacts at the regional and watershed levels, and without this knowledge, the ecological impact is unknown (Kitching, 2020). The Attawapiskat, Fort Albany, and Neskantaga, amongst many other First Nations do not want to compromise their traditional lands for economic gain. Rather, they demand to know all the information to make a decision that best represents their beliefs, traditions, and multi-generational understanding of Mother Earth. Additionally, this area of peatland is home to caribou, migratory birds, and many others (Wilt, 2020; WCS 2021). The land and the animals that make up this region are interconnected with Indigenous livelihoods and should not be compromised for the sake of mineral extraction (Wilt, 2020; WCS 2021). Rather, understanding the ecosystems and not rushing to extract, is in the long-term benefit of Indigenous peoples.

         Since Indigenous communities across Canada have largely been overlooked and ignored, there is some credence to the point of Marten Falls and Webquie First Nations jumping on an opportunity to advance their economy and infrastructure (Wilt, 2020). Afterall, the Marten Falls and Webquie First Nations will be getting a huge influx of capital to improve their community (Wilt, 2020). However, the overriding question that must outshine all the proposed incentives from the government and mining industry can be encapsulated into three words: “at what costs?” Oftentimes, the proposed benefits aren’t worth the societal and environmental costs/burdens that are disproportionately inflicted onto Indigenous communities.

         UNDRIP, under articles 4, 5, and 26 are significant to the draft agreement to conduct a regional assessment in the Ring of Fire composed by the Federal government. Article 4 “affirms Indigenous peoples’ rights to self-government and autonomy pertaining to local and internal affairs;” article 5 “to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions” and 26 notes that “Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired” (UN 2011). This draft completely disregards Indigenous peoples wishes due to the lack of participation with Indigenous people in the creation of this draft. This draft should have been co-created alongside Indigenous partners. This shows how the emphasis on Indigenous communities within this report is another political attempt by the Federal and Provincial government to silence Indigenous people and appease the public rather than progression reconciliation. Looking at Northern Indigenous communities, they face extreme hardships including boiled water advisories, extreme costs of living, and exclusion from essential services (Wilt, 2020; Scott & Cowen, 2020). However contrary to the marketing behind governmental and industry reporting, the road network and mine are not for Indigenous communities. The mining industry, along with the provincial government, are using Indigenous communities as a way of justifying infrastructural violence (Scott & Cowen, 2020). Indigenous communities are once again being used to advance political and economic agendas (Scott & Cowen, 2020). Neskantaga, for example, has been under a boil-water advisory for 26 years (Scott & Cowen, 2020). Where were the government's concerns for improving access to these communities then? The government is using the opportunity of extraction to give Indigenous communities much-needed infrastructure and capital in hopes of persuading them to natural resources development (Scott & Cowen, 2020). In fact, while in conversation with Al Shpyth, the Executive Director of International Minerals Innovation Institute (IMII), he stated that mining is the first reason governments must put money into communities. This highlights a quote from Dayna Scott who said, “we should also not forget that Ontario is unwilling to provide the community infrastructure that is required unless it also serves the industry’s needs” (Wilt, 2020, pp. 6).

         The omission of road networks illuminates that the choice by the Federal and Provincial governments as to whether the road is to be made has already been decided. This highlights that the government is insincere in its attempt to acquire public comments and meaningful engagement as significant choices that have colossal damage have been excluded. This bolsters the previous point that the federal and provincial governments are not in accordance with UNDRIP as meaningful participation with Indigenous communities is still not occurring.

         Another area of concern is that this draft contributes to the history of reactive rather than proactive policy-making in Canada generally, and Ontario specifically. Perpetuating reactive policy only enhances future problems. Rushing through extraction and creating policy that will exhaust our resources, destroy peatland, and contribute to environmental degradation will require the Provincial and Federal governments to invest more capital into correcting and minimizing these future effects. Some of these externalities might not be solvable, situating Canada in a peculiar position of how to move forward.

         The draft is also lacking in methodological and authoritative decision frameworks. In addition, due to this being the first official regional assessment, the lack of these frameworks and methodology can render this assessment ineffective. There are no standards set for regional assessments, thus without these frameworks, it increases the possibility that the regional assessment will not accomplish all that it is meant to.



     RE: Comments for Regional Assessment in the Ring of Fire Area (reference #: 80468)

         The primary concern with the draft agreement between the Province of Ontario and the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Canada to conduct a regional assessment in the Ring of Fire Area is lack of emphasis on a pre-determined methodology or unit(s) of measurement.  As demonstrated by Jill Blakely et al. (2020. p. v), regional assessments are extremely diverse, allowing for the use of dozens of methods and tools to assess impacts of a wide range of value components.  I would like to see more emphasis placed on the methodological direction the assessment plans to take.  Some potentially useful areas would be:

·         Ecological Footprint and Biocapacity Data

§  This data is already produced in a sub-national application in the Province of Ontario (see Miller et al., 2021)

·         Scenario Analysis or other forms of modelling

·         Remote sensing

·         Or a combination of various methods through a mixed-method approach

         This assessment, the first of its kind under the Impact Assessment Act, has the potential to set a strong precedent for future projects.  Determining a methodology that utilizes all available data, knowledge (both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, will be key to producing a more ecologically-conscious resource management policy in the twenty-first century.


Submitted by
York University
Public Notice
Date Submitted
2022-02-08 - 8:54 AM
Date modified: