Monday November 15, 2021
Mr. Peter Tabuns: My question is for the Minister of Indigenous Affairs. This weekend, the Toronto Star revealed that the Ford government has approved eight mining exploration permits. These permits will allow companies to drill for gold on the area that the Grassy Narrows First Nation has declared as an Indigenous protected area, but the government didn’t notify Grassy Narrows nor consult with them to get consent. Speaker, did the minister not realize that this was Grassy Narrows territory when he issued the permits, and how could that possibly have been missed?
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): To reply on behalf of the government, the member for Peterborough–Kawartha.
Mr. Dave Smith: Thank you very much for that question. It gives me an opportunity to clarify some things.
The exploration activity is not actually mining activity. Mining is a multi-step process that we have to go through, and it begins with the exploration permit. But an exploration permit does not allow the exploration company to engage in mine development, construction or production of the mine. It is a multi-year process that we have to go through.
Ontario is committed to the success of First Nations and seeks to work proactively with First Nations, including ANA, to achieve positive outcomes, including healthy communities, good jobs and economic prosperity.
Mining claim registrations in the area can likely be attributed to an increase in mineral commodity prices, absolutely. But the overwhelming majority of mining claim registrations and exploration projects do not result in an operating mine. I’ll have more to say in the supplementary.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question.
Mr. Peter Tabuns: Again to the minister—that was one of the weakest first answers I’ve ever heard.
Anyway, the people of Grassy Narrows have lived through decades of pain with basic human rights denied and ignored by successive Liberal and Conservative governments. Now the Ford government is plowing ahead to do even more damage. Issuing these permits is a violation of the Mining Act and section 35 of the Constitution, the duty to consult.
Grassy Narrows says the mining exploration will compound the harm that mercury and clear-cut logging have already done to their land and their people, and that harm has been considerable. You know that, Speaker.
Will the minister cancel these permits immediately and withdraw mining and clear-cut logging from Grassy Narrows territory?
Mr. Dave Smith: The ministry has worked in good faith with ANA and their neighbours to identify community views and positions on the no-harvest area and seek a balanced path forward that can be applied through the next decade with the Whiskey Jack Forest management plan.
The crown takes its duty to consult with Aboriginal communities very seriously. We’ll continue to consult with all First Nations on mining exploration and development activities where such activities have the potential to adversely affect a community’s established or credibly asserted Aboriginal or treaty rights. We are committed to satisfying this constitutional obligation.
Here is the link to the video of this exchange: https://youtu.be/NctHhv1SM1k