Ontario Construction News staff writer
Marten Falls and Webequie First Nations have announced that the Environmental Assessment process is ready to begin on the Northern Road Link on May 4.
“This Notice of Commencement is a significant milestone for our First Nations and one that has taken over 10 years to materialize,” Chief Achneepineskum of Marten Falls First Nation said in a news release. “We share a common vision with Webequie to change how development occurs in our traditional territory. Today, we are leading the planning and assessment of this project to ensure that environmental risks to our traditional ways of life are thoroughly assessed and mitigated, and that opportunities for First Nations people are maximized.”
The Northern Road Link project is a proposal to build a 120-kilometre road running north south in a remote part of Northern Ontario, north-west of Thunder Bay. The project would connect two other proposed road development projects; the Webequie Supply Road (WSR) and the Marten Falls Community Access Road (MFCAR); providing the First Nations with access to the Ring of Fire mining development area as well as the provincial highway system.
As an Indigenous-led Environmental Assessment process, the two First Nations say they are committed to detailed, community-directed studies that seek best practices to protect and safeguard the environment in any potential road development.
The process will incorporate traditional knowledge and consultation with First Nations people of all ages including Elders, women and youth groups.
“Our First Nations people have been stewards of these lands since time immemorial and that’s not going to change through this process,” said Chief Wabasse of Webequie First Nation.
“One of the main reasons we are leading this Environmental Assessment is to exercise our jurisdiction and inherent rights, as well as to generate the necessary information to make informed decisions about the future of the lands and prosperity of our members through self-determination. We are hopeful that our neighbouring First Nations will trust us to lead this planning work responsibly, respecting traditional protocols, clan families and environmental concerns.”
The Northern Road Link has the potential to become a critical transportation linkage for remote First Nations, and open the door to new socio-economic opportunities in Ontario. For isolated First Nation people, the new road will bring needed training, jobs and business prospects.
“Without this project, our people will continue to live in the same underdeveloped conditions, lacking access to drinking water, housing, clothing, jobs, healthcare and education; all the basic needs that other Ontarians take for granted every day,” said Chief Achneepineskum. “This project has the potential to finally bring economic reconciliation for remote First Nations in Ontario, and we are proud to be at the forefront of this planning process with our neighbours in Webequie.”
The Northern Road Link is a proposed all-season corridor that would link the proposed Marten Falls Community Access Road (MFCAR) to the proposed Webequie Supply Road (WSR), in the McFaulds Lake area of northwestern Ontario. The proposed Project will be a two-lane, all-weather, gravel access road with water crossings, built to accommodate both passenger and commercial vehicles.