Ontario signs deal with four First Nations to build roads near Ring of Fire

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Robin MacLennan

Ontario Construction Report staff writer

Four First Nations have signed a deal with Ontario to build roads, infrastructure projects and launch skills training as the province plans to mine the mineral-rich Ring of Fire region.

Animbiigoo Zaagi’igan Anishinaabek, Aroland First Nation, Ginoogaming First Nation and Long Lake #58 First Nation will see their roads about 300 kilometres east of Thunder Bay renewed, a step needed prior to critical mineral and resource development, Premier Doug Ford said at a news conference.

“These are all-season roads that will support First Nations communities, built by First Nations workers,” Ford said in a statement on Tuesday.

The province is investing in the area known as Greenstone, as part of its long-term strategy to mine the area and regions north into the Ring of Fire to create a manufacturing chain for electric vehicle batteries and it sees northern Ontario’s Ring of Fire region as a prime source for the critical minerals needed.

The agreement includes building and improving highway infrastructure that will help connect more First Nations communities to the province’s highway network. This work includes maintenance and upgrades to Highway 584 and Highway 11, with work starting this construction season.

Also, $1.9 million from the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development will go to the Indigenous Workforce Development Program to provide training and support to secure jobs related to mineral development in the region.

An additional $2 million to fund the construction and maintenance of the Migizi Plaza Rest Stop, which will serve the needs of First Nation members, tourists and residents, create jobs and drive revenue for the First Nations and Municipality of Greenstone.

The four First Nations welcomed the news, although one chief said its participation was under duress.

“Minodahmun’s Indigenous workforce development program is crucial for empowering our people with the skills and opportunities to build meaningful careers, strengthen our communities and ensure our members are participating in projects on our lands,” said Ginoogaming First Nation Chief Sheri Taylor.

But Taylor took issue with the province’s approach to reconciliation for the First Nation and its lack of response over its recent state-of-emergency declaration.

“It is not missed on us that projects that benefit the government of Ontario are taking precedence over the resolution of our State of Emergency and seven decades of grievances that we’ve experienced in this part of James Bay Treaty No. 9,” Taylor said.

A rest stop plaza will be an important part of the development of the region, said Animbiigoo Zaagi’igan Anishinaabek Chief Yvette Metansinine.

“Migizi Plaza will showcase the vibrant culture of our communities,” Metansinine said. “The Plaza will provide valuable economic development and employment opportunities to community members and allow our First Nations to be active participants in the development of the region.”

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