First Nations Partnerships

The Ring of Fire presents a major economic development opportunity for area First Nations.

Government is working closely with First Nation communities in the area in various ways to determine what supports communities need now and in the future.

We are working to build positive relationships with local First Nations and to help communities build governance processes, technical knowledge and expertise through:

  • Community-Based Capacity Funding;
  • Relationship Agreements;
  • Land Use Planning;
  • Employment and income assistance, skills development, training and job creation;
  • Transportation and community infrastructure;
  • Child and Youth Services and Supports; and
  • Health Care, social and victims’ services.

Community-Based Capacity Funding

Communities have indicated a need for local capacity in order to respond to large projects, like those proposed in the Ring of Fire.  First Nation communities want to understand and prepare for investment attraction and workforce planning to fully benefit from upcoming opportunities.

To help meet these needs:

The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines is working to deliver community-based capacity funding in cooperation with the provincial government, federal government and industry (i.e., Cliffs Natural Resources and Noront Resources Inc.). Funding could be used to:

  • Support capacity needs for governance, negotiations, legal, and technical supports and advisory services;
  • Define and negotiate the use of shared First Nation territories;
  • Support training and skills development required to participate in Ring of Fire activities;
  • Allow for the hiring of project leads or managers for Ring of Fire initiatives; and
  • Cover travel for participation in committees and working groups, among other things.

This funding supports the needs identified by eligible communities and provides flexibility for them to assess and prioritize for the potential opportunities arising from Ring of Fire developments.

The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines is also supporting many of the communities most proximate to potential development with community communication liaison officer positions. These positions are intended to provide individuals with knowledge about the mining sector and help communities at large engage with industry and government.

Over the past three years, the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, through the New Relationship Fund, has provided community-based funding to all Ring of Fire communities to build consultation and engagement capacity for dialogue with industry proponents planning development in the Ring of Fire area.

Relationship Agreements

For over a decade, Ontario has been working with Matawa First Nations to help build capacity, and strengthen relationships to prepare for mineral exploration and development.

Our government has entered into a number of agreements with the Matawa First Nations Council and individual communities that commit both parties to collaboration, relationship building, and support for consultation and engagement with industry proponents. The federal government is also investing in engagement with Matawa First Nations Council and individual First Nations on initiatives related to supporting Ring of Fire negotiations, consultations, skills development, training and other areas.

These and other relationship agreements, as well as the funding that supports them, demonstrate the government’s continuing commitment to building relationships with Matawa First Nations communities and to ensuring productive, long-term discussions around planning, economic benefits, and potential development on traditional and shared lands.

Land Use Planning

Community-based land use planning is a joint process in which Ontario and First Nations work together to make decisions on where land use activities may take place in the Far North. The legislative foundation for land use planning in the Far North is the Far North Act, 2010, which requires that a community-based land use plan is in place for most major development, such as the opening of a mine, or constructing or expanding all-weather transportation.

Through the land use planning process, Ontario and First Nations will determine which areas to protect and which areas are suitable for sustainable economic development.

Land use decisions made through community-based land use planning will give First Nations, industry and businesses greater certainty about appropriate land use and potential development and lead to more opportunities in the Far North. It also ensures the protection of areas of cultural and ecological value.

The Ministry of Natural Resources is supporting First Nations community-based land use planning in the Ring of Fire, including collecting background information, documenting traditional knowledge, and building capacity in the community to prepare land use plans.

Community-based land use planning is proceeding concurrently with planning for the potential mineral development in the Ring of Fire. Other requirements, such as environmental assessments are also ongoing.

Employment and Income Assistance, Skills Development, Training and Job Creation

The Ring of Fire has the potential to provide area First Nations with tremendous economic opportunities. In order to help take full advantage of the benefits of natural resource development, First Nation communities in remote areas of Northern Ontario require job readiness and employment service supports, assistance in covering the cost of living and training, counseling and home supports to increase community and individual success rates.

Both Webequie and Eabametoong are in the process of implementing the full delivery model of Ontario Works which will not only provide income support, but also training and employment supports. Ontario will work with other First Nations in the Ring of Fire who do not currently have the full delivery model, as well as other partners as appropriate, to ensure that all First Nations in the region are supported in delivering all components of Ontario Works.

Additionally, Ontario has a variety of funding programs which provide additional supports, such as:

  • The New Relationship Fund, which assists communities and organizations across Ontario in creating jobs, supporting skills development and training, developing business partnerships and expanding business opportunities.
  • The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund, which provides a variety of programs aimed at supporting youth, entrepreneurship and small business support for critical infrastructure and community development projects;
  • The Northern Community Investment Readiness Initiative assists northern communities to develop the tools and capability to attract, receive and successfully explore investment opportunities by providing funding to conduct studies, such as workforce planning and asset inventories. This allows communities to identify their strengths to attract business investment and help them to focus their efforts to prepare for additional economic opportunities.
  • The Northern Training Partnership Fund helps over 2,400 Northern Ontarians receive valuable skills.

Transportation and Community Infrastructure

Currently, Ontario, with its federal colleagues, supports the essential winter road system that connects remote First Nation communities during the winter months.  When conditions allow, this network of temporary roads allows communities to transport building materials and supplies, used to develop core infrastructure projects like housing and multi-purpose centres, to reduce the costs of flying in these much-needed materials.

The Province continues to work with the federal government and First Nation communities to move winter roads to high ground, which will help address increasing weather-related issues and reduce full-load hauling seasons. This will also position the roads for future all-weather road development. The Province will continue to provide financial assistance towards the construction of winter roads.

Child and Youth Services and Supports

Ontario offers and accesses a number of programs to support and increase opportunities for First Nation youth, including:

  • Aboriginal Healthy, Babies Healthy Children which provides culturally relevant family home visiting services for families with children aged 0-6.
  • Community Integration Workers, who support the rehabilitation and reintegration of young persons by providing culturally appropriate programming for First Nations youth.
  • After School Programming – part of Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy – gives children and youth the chance to participate in fun, safe, supervised activities encouraging youth to be active and healthy.
  • A partnership with Right to Play includes summer programs and after school programs that encourage active living and youth leadership through activities such as hockey development programs.
  • A partnership with The Belinda Stronach Foundation to deliver a One Laptop Per Child Canada pilot program to First Nation communities.
  • The Youth in Policing Initiative provides summer employment opportunities for First Nations youth through partnerships with First Nations police services.

Further supports may be addressed as part of Ontario’s Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy, including services and supports for vulnerable children and youth.

Health Care, Social and Victims’ Services

To take advantage of opportunities afforded through large projects such as the Ring of Fire, communities need healthy people and supports to help them succeed. Ontario has many programs that address key areas, such as addiction services, child protection and violence prevention through Tikanagan Child and Family Services and crisis intervention.

Maximizing Opportunities for the Future

Ontario understands that communities in the Ring of Fire have been seeking a broader scope of participation relating to potential development that extends beyond the existing environmental assessment and regulatory processes and impact benefit agreements with companies. Communities have asked for greater input into socio-economic and community development supports, regional infrastructure planning and long-term environmental monitoring of the area.

The government has listened, and recognizes that this participation also hinges on the strong support of our federal colleagues. We are calling on the federal government to join the discussion table with First Nations and the Province, and help share in the costs associated with delivering these critical community development supports to First Nations.

Ontario is prepared to formalize its relationship with communities most proximate to Ring of Fire development and to engage with the federal government in tripartite discussions that would find a way forward on a variety of initiatives, including:

  • Socio-economic and community development supports;
  • Regional infrastructure planning;
  • Regional environmental monitoring of long-term impacts to the Ring of Fire area; and
  • Resource revenue sharing.

Socio-economic and Community Development Supports

In order for developments in the Ring of Fire to succeed, area First Nations must have access to the social programs and economic development supports that contribute to the safety, health and well-being of communities. As such, Ontario is proposing that tripartite discussions in this area include, but are not limited to:

  • Economic Development Supports - covering work force readiness; skills development, training and mentorship programs; mechanisms for access to capital; and business development opportunities to ensure local enterprises have the tools they need to succeed.
  • Family Wellness and Well-Being - in order to improve access to timely health services, reduce incidences of preventable or communicable diseases, address prescription drug abuse, and ensure that families have access to programming and other supports needed to promote a high quality of life.
  • Education, Skills Development and Training - with a view to increasing student participation and graduation rates and providing opportunities for labour force readiness through educational upgrading, mentoring, and trades and apprenticeship opportunities.

Regional Infrastructure Planning

Ontario is also committed to working together with First Nations to plan for, and deliver, the core infrastructure needed for communities to thrive. This is about more than roads to access mine sites; this is about communities having:

  • Reliable and adequate sources of electricity to support social and economic development;
  • Access to alternative and innovative energy technologies;
  • Increased transportation options, such as all-weather roads and future inter-modal transportation systems; and
  • Businesses having access to information and communications technology, including broadband and wireless.

Long-Term Environmental Monitoring

The Province supports sustainable development in the Ring of Fire, while upholding Ontario’s commitment to protecting the environment. Environmental assessments at both the provincial and federal levels are rigorous undertakings intended to identify, predict and mitigate any effects that the projects may have on the environment. The environmental assessment process ensures that public concerns are heard, our duty to consult is met and potential economic, social, cultural and environmental impacts are taken into account.

To ensure the protection of the environment from any combined effects of these large projects, long-term monitoring of environmental impacts on a regional basis is being considered. Such an approach would involve the collection of baseline data to support future regional and cumulative impacts evaluation, and ongoing monitoring.

Engagement of First Nation and local communities is required so that communities are provided the opportunity to participate in long-term monitoring of environmental impacts. The Province will work with First nation communities to identify how community values might be incorporated into any data collection and monitoring programs, and will seek opportunities for communities to participate in these programs.

Ontario is also inviting First Nations to a dialogue on the next stage of how to responsibly develop resources.

Resource Revenue Sharing

First Nations and industry see government resource revenue sharing discussions as a necessary precursor to advancing the development of the Ring of Fire and bringing about stability and investor certainty. Ontario is prepared to work with those First Nation communities most proximate to Ring of Fire development to negotiate a specific share, equivalent to a portion of the province’s resource revenues associated with new mines in the Ring of Fire region.  We anticipate that sharing these new revenues with First Nations will create a strong incentive to promote local development opportunities.