Far North Act
In 2007, more than 1,500 scientists from Canada, the U.S., and around the world signed a petition urging Canadian policy makers to recognize the importance of the boreal region and their responsibility for its protection. In September 2010, the provincial government passed the Far North Act to support First Nations-led land use planning in Ontario’s Far North and to support a balance between conservation and sustainable development to the benefit of local communities.
Ontario Nature supports the Far North Act, which requires that at least 50% of Ontario’s northern boreal be set aside from industrial development and that land use decisions be determined by the First Nation communities that live there. The legislation enshrines commitments made in 2008 by Premier McGuinty to conserve the boreal forest, plan for future development, and increase the role of Aboriginal people in decision-making within their traditional territories. However, we recognize that the legislation has failed to adequately address First Nations concerns over the shared political jurisdiction of the land, and the nature of the government to government relationship described in the numbered treaties.
The Nishnawbe Aski Nation, or NAN, (the political tribal organization representing the majority of First Nations that have traditional territories within Ontario’s Far North) oppose the Far North Act, specifically the Act’s requirement that an interconnected protected area of at least 225,000 square kilometres be established. Many communities have expressed interest in resource development to help address issues such as high levels of unemployment, access to medical care and education, and the economic gap between native and non-native communities. NAN is also concerned that Province of Ontario can establish protected areas without any First Nation input.
Ontario Nature believes that we need to protect wildlife and water bodies, while providing funding and research support for First Nations-led planning so that local communities benefit from resource development and the benefits of setting aside land from industrial development are understood and supported.