The Facts Regarding the Situation with NioBay
January 28, 2022
We are releasing this update to provide an overview of the facts regarding the situation with NioBay.
The Council is not for or against a mine. It is not our job to make that decision. It is our job to gather information for Membership so informed discussions can take place, it is also Chief & Council’s job to ensure our rights are protected throughout the process and we have done that through the Protection Agreements.
Chief & Council continue to talk to NioBay about their exploration drilling program because making our views known about what happens in our Homeland is an essential part of exercising and strengthening our Treaty rights. This is how we put our rights to work.
In 2017 the previous Chief & Council refused to talk to NioBay and Ontario about exploration activities. The problem with that is whenever any First Nation refuses to talk to a company or the province, the permitting process does not stop. Ontario gave NioBay its permit for exploration drilling in 2018 without any input from MCFN and we lost our voice in the process.
In 2018 the previous Chief & Council tried to sue Ontario for giving NioBay the permit, and when we were elected to office we sought the advice of two different law firms that specialize in Aboriginal rights and both advised that we drop the lawsuit as we had no chance of succeeding.
Why did the Council drop the lawsuit?
The court would look at the efforts made by NioBay to talk to our First Nation. The court would see that NioBay tried repeatedly to talk to MCFN in 2017 about their plans to apply for an exploration permit. The two different law firms advised us that MCFN’s refusal to talk to NioBay would be seen as unreasonable by the court and more than likely would rule against us. This would be a waste of time and money with MCFN gaining nothing and NioBay maintaining their permit. And so we as the Council decided it would be in the best interest of our First Nation to drop the lawsuit.
The Chief, Deputy Chief and the Elder Councillor met with members of the Sailors/Jeffries family in August 2019 to discuss the lawsuit and they agreed, along with Council, to drop the lawsuit.
The current Chief & Council started meeting with NioBay in September 2019 and have since negotiated two Protection Agreements that protect the Moose Cree Homeland and Moose Cree rights while ensuring that our First Nation does not bear any of the costs relating to early exploration.
The Protection Agreements ensure that you, the Membership, will have the final say on whether any mine is ever developed in the future. In other words, NioBay has committed to MCFN, in writing, that it will NOT proceed to development of a mine without Moose Cree support. For Moose Cree, “Moose Cree support” means Membership approving it through a vote.
The Protection Agreements do NOT mean that we agreed to a mine being built. NioBay only has a permit from Ontario to undertake early exploration drilling and nothing more. The bigger issue we have to deal with is that mine staking and permitting system in this province is flawed. There is a “free entry” system to stake a claim, which can be done online by anyone and any company. The provincial government grants the permit for exploration, whether a First Nation agrees with it or not. MCFN strongly disagrees with this approach, as do many other First Nations across this province.
We need to hear from you: South Bluff Creek Survey
We received some good feedback from the Membership at various in person and virtual info sessions over the past few years. We have heard some members express concerns about the possibility of any future mining development in the South Bluff Creek area. We have also heard some members express support for the possibility of a mine. As your Council, it is our responsibility to listen to all points of view.
To get a better understanding of how membership feels about potential development in the South Bluff Creek area, we had a one-question survey created asking whether that area should be legally protected or whether our First Nation could consider future development there in the right circumstances, depending on its potential impacts and benefits.
We have hosted several info sessions on this issue as well as a Special Membership Meeting in September 2021, however the numbers at these meetings only represent a very small percentage of our total membership. The goal of the survey is to hear from as many MCFN members as possible.
The survey is NOT a ratification vote for a mine (we would need a lot more information to do that).
The survey will be used to inform our decision-making process as we continue our discussion with NioBay and decide how to move forward together as a Nation.
If you have not yet done the survey, please take the time to do so by going to www.moosecree.com/south-bluff-creek-survey/.
Or you may also request a paper copy of the survey by calling Ryan at Executive Services at 705-658-4619 extension 245 and he will mail one to you with a self-addressed envelope.
We are always pleased to hear from the Membership as we work for you on these issues. We thank all those who have already submitted a survey.
The survey can be submitted until February 25, 2022. We will share the survey after this date.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns please use so we can provide you with accurate information.