By Lindsay Briscoe
Fort Severn First Nation recently demanded that Ontario put an end to geological surveying on its traditional territory until the community is satisfied with the working relationship between Canada, the provinces and First Nations.
“The people of Fort Severn are dissatisfied with the slow reaction of the Canadian and Ontario governments to respond to the Idle No More movement and the hunger fast of Chief Theresa Spence,” wrote Fort Severn’s Chief Joseph Crowe to the Ontario Geological Survey – a branch of the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM). “As a signatory of Treaty No. 9, Ontario has a responsibility to respond to the demands of the First Nations for a treaty relationship.”
A member of the Fort Severn council reportedly told CBC News recently that one of the biggest concerns is that once geological data is collected, it’s published, and that is “just gonna open the door for whoever wants to come in.”
Ontario Geological Survey information regarding mining claims, geology, maps, administrative boundaries and abandoned mines is available to the public online through programs like Google Earth.
MNDM spokesperson Julia Bennett says that when the ministry received Chief Crowe’s letter on Jan. 25, the contractor in charge of surveying the area around Fort Severn was ordered to stop even though she says the information is valuable to researchers as it helps them “understand the geological history of the region, the ground energy potential, mineral resource potential, groundwater implications, safety and health implications.”
She added that all the data was to be shared with Fort Severn First Nation and could have helped the community develop its land use plan.
The release of Ontario Geological Survey data conducted up until recently near Weenusk First Nation along the shore of Hudson Bay has also been halted due to conflict regarding a supposed lack of consultation with the community.
The letter from Chief Crowe indicates that he and the Fort Severn council are willing to lift the geological survey ban if they decide that progress is made at the meeting between First Nations leaders and the Canadian government scheduled for Feb. 28.