The Ring of Fire assessment aims to protect the integrity of the area's boreal forests
Osgoode Hall Law School’s Environmental Justice and Sustainability Clinic has received the go signal to assist the federal government in assessing the mining and road infrastructure possibilities in the Ring of Fire in northern Ontario.
Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Jonathan Wilkinson, approved the clinic’s request for a regional impact assessment. In a letter addressed to clinic co-director Dayna Scott, Wilkinson added that representatives of the clinic should meet with the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada to discuss the terms of reference for the regional assessment.
According to the news release from York University, the regional assessment will consider the possible negative effects of the proposed mining and road construction projects on the Indigenous communities residing in the Ring of Fire.
While the area encompasses “a large deposit of minerals, including nickel, copper, zinc, gold and most notably chromite,” co-director Scott stressed the importance of not interfering with the Indigenous peoples who have served as “stewards of those lands since time immemorial.” The regional assessment aims to protect the integrity of the area’s boreal forests, wetlands and its carbon storehouse.
According to Scott, who is also York University’s research chairperson in environmental law and justice in the green economy, as well as an associate professor in the university, the need for a regional assessment became apparent when the clinic had been involved in a project-level environmental assessment for one of the remote First Nations in the area. Despite initial apprehensions regarding the proper request procedure, owing to the novel nature of the federal Impact Assessment Act, the request was accepted.
Scott said that the regional assessment would be an exciting step toward a meaningful collaboration between the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada and the Indigenous governing authorities. This way, she said, they can avoid a situation in which the affected communities are “being merely ‘consulted on’ the proponents’ proposals.”
Aside from its research work, the Environmental Justice and Sustainability Clinic also offers a range of pro bono legal services, usually with the help of outside lawyers and legal service organizations.