Submission to the Regional Assessment in the Ring of Fire Area

Reference Number

Dear Debra,


We hope you had a good Family Day weekend!


Thanks to you and your colleagues for taking the time to meet with Justina and me last week. We wanted to share some additional thoughts based on our helpful conversation.


One of the main reasons for the reform of federal impact assessment law in 2017 and the extensive effort undertaken by the Expert Panel ( was to, “to restore public trust in EA; to introduce new, fair processes; and to get resources to market.” We suggest that these mandates of restoring public trust and confidence in impact assessment, including RA, which IAAC is responsible for delivering, should be more evident in the RA process for the Ring of Fire, including the current Agreement and Terms of Reference. As you know, the Expert Panel’s report also identified a number of criteria around what public trust means including, “the conduct of IAs must respect the principles of being transparent, inclusive, informed and meaningful.” We have provided many suggestions on how to better ensure that First Nations are not marginalized in the process. It seems to many of us that the RA as described is largely oriented towards economic development outcomes with a token role for First Nations and based on the assumption that somehow they will benefit from the economic development envisioned in the region. This is not a given based on the way this RA has been developed to date and that meaningful engagement opportunities have been precluded by the pandemic. Yet, without meaningful participation by First Nations, the RA and other project processes will lack the social acceptance necessary to facilitate project development. The same is true regarding the protection of the physical and biological environment.


In addition, in February 2015, Justina and I convened a gathering of RA experts with representatives of three Ontario Ministries to consider Regional environmental approaches with respect to the Ring of Fire. At this time, we heard clearly from MOECC, MNRF, and MNDM the many reasons why they were unable to consider regional approaches, ranging from the lack of legal direction in provincial legislation to the focus on community-based land use planning and, in the case of MNDM and the RoF Secretariat, their inability to address broader concerns within their mandate and the legislation (e.g., under Ontario’s Mining Act). Ultimately, MNDM focused on the Regional Framework Agreement that provided little or no public outcomes around fundamental issues related to infrastructure, monitoring, First Nations role in impact assessment, and revenue sharing in the Ring of Fire.


And yet so much has changed in Ontario since that time: The Far North Act was amended such that approved community land use plans are no longer required for decisions about development, the Far North Branch of the Ministry has greatly diminished in size meaning fewer efforts are being devoted to research, community relations and LUP, the Regional Framework Agreement process was abandoned, and the Ontario government is paying for environmental assessment of road access to the Ring of Fire across three separate projects. While we are respectful of Canada and Ontario efforts to collaborate on this RA, this must be accompanied by a genuine interest in addressing development and the cumulative impacts of land use and climate change in this large and globally significant environment as well as the relationships with First Nations in a way that that supports Canada’s commitments to Indigenous Peoples.


We ran out of time in our helpful conversation the other day for a full discussion on the topic of the Committee. You (Debra) in particular seemed confident that you will be able to assemble a strong committee based on your prior experience with JRPs. We have ourselves advocated that the IAAC draw from its experience with JRPs and were pleased to learn of your direct experience. But, we have also expressed concerns that too many decisions are left to the discretion of this committee and these should be framed and made more clear in the ToR – their job will be difficult enough without having to decide key aspects like the size of the study area. It’s important to ensure that all members come in with the same idea about the purpose, scope and overall frame of the assessment at the outset. We are also concerned, based on our experience, that the selection of committee members will become a political exercise, and urge you to have the goal of member selection by about a strong and committed committee for the purposes of RA and not simply reaching agreement between Ontario and Canada.


We look forward to further discussions!


Warm regards,


Cheryl and Justina

Submitted by
Administrator on behalf of Cheryl Chetkiewicz and Justina Ray
Public Notice
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