Bob Rae, chief negotiator for the nine Matawa First Nations, met with Marten Falls leaders and community citzenss on August 30th, 2017, to update them on the progress being made in negotiations with the province concerning the Ring of Fire.
“I hope we can work together and reach an agreement with the province. We already have a Regional Framework Agreement[RFA]. And the purpose of the agreements is to improve conditions on-reserve and to assist communities in their desire to improve the lives of their citizens and to gain control of the lands that they occupy,” he said.
Rae said he wanted community citzens, and chief and council, to become more involved in the talk with the province.
“We talk to community citizens. We visit the communities. We engage with chiefs and begin to develop a bit of an agenda and discussions with the governments. Now we’re trying to improve the negotiation process by involving community citizens more directly,” he said . “It’s not just me meeting the province, it’s the First Nations’ themselves having meetings. The chiefs met together with the Premier on four separate occasions in the last few months. There’s been a lot opportunity for direct dialogue.”
Rae explained the purpose of the Jurisdictional Table which was fought for by the First Nations.
“It’s all about the question of permitting and how do we actually implement the principle of consent so that First Nation have direct control over things like mining permits, exploration permits and things of that nature,” he said. “It’s the jurisdictions of the First Nations and, of course, it’s dealing with the problem we’ve had since the treaties were signed that province has always said: ‘Well, now we have control,’ and the First Nations have been saying for many, many years: ‘No, the First Nations maintained their interest and their control because the land belonged to them since the beginning of time.’ he said”
Rae spoke about issues with the Ring of Fire and Marten Falls.“Marten Falls is absolutely central to the Ring of Fire because it’s the principle in the Ring of Fire, in the Regional Framework Agreement, that the nations that are the most directly impacted will have their influence felt and having Marten Falls playing a lead role is very important,” he said.
“It’s partly the First Nations talking to each other and the First Nations’ themselves coming up with answers and then it’s obviously negotiating with the province. It’s a process of give or take between the First Nations’ and give and take with the province, too.”Rae said the RFA was about improving the conditions of First Nations and it was something he had been wanting to do for sometime.“It’s something I’ve been interested in my whole life. I think that improving the condition of Indigenous people across the country has long been a big interest of mine. And speaking as the negotiator this is the key issue for the country right now, making sure that we’re making real improvements in the ability of First Nations to control their lives and to take greater position of influence in the country and that’s something I think is in the national interest.”
Rae said why he thought the federal government was now involved, as opposed to their position several years ago.“I think there’s two things. I think politically that the government has changed. We have a new government in place which has a different attitude. I think the second reason is we’ve shown on the ground in the negotiations and in the process with the province that we’re serious about improving the amount of cooperation and progress we could make at the regional level and that led the federal government to say: ‘We’re ready to take a positive role,’” he said.
Rae recalled earlier meetings about the access road to the community with the previous chief of Marten Falls.“I think the community road issue has been a big deal for Marten Falls for a long time. I can remember the first meeting I had with Chief Eli Moonias. He made a point of emphasizing that is something he wanted to see. I think that is a very important issue for the community,” he said. “I think the other issue is the fact that because the Ring of Fire is within the traditional territory of Marten Falls other communities are going to be impacted as well but Marten Falls is going to play a leading role.”
Marten Falls First Nation’s Chief Bruce Achneepineskum said there was not enough information revealed for community citizens. “We heard from community citizens that we need more information at the Regional Framework negotiations,” Achneepineskum said. “We need to find a way to have the input of community citizens included.”
Elder Elizabeth Achneepineskum attended the meeting and left feeling a little disappointed.“The meeting went pretty good but they made us feel like we don’t know nothing when we asked questions. It’s very important for people to understand what we agreed to,” she said after the conclusion of the meeting.