An Alliance of First Nations and non-First Nations leaders from across Northern and Rural Ontario were pleased to see Premier Ford and the Ontario Government are taking steps to improve the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

On January 18, 2019, the Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks (MECP) posted a 45-day consultation period to the Environmental Registry on the 10th Year Review of the Endangered Species Act: Discussion Paper.

Over the 45-day consultation period, The Alliance leaders will continue working with government to ensure that all Ministries will develop a workable species at risk policy that keeps mills open and people working in every region of the province.

This group of concerned northern and rural leaders felt it necessary to clarify the misinformation from full-time environmental lobbyists. In response, members of The Alliance released the following statements:

“The most important action Minister Phillips and the Ford Government must take is a permanent recognition of the Crown Forest Sustainability Act as an equivalent process to the Endangered Species Act. Having two acts attempting to accomplish the same outcome represents the single greatest piece of red tape and duplication to Ontario’s forest sector. We look forward to working with government to improve the effectiveness of the ESA and ensure a balanced approach between a healthy environment and a healthy economy,” said Her Worship Wendy Landry, Mayor of Shuniah; president of the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA).

“We have clearly outlined the lack of information and consultation regarding species at risk and the potentially devastating socio-economic impacts associated with other policy proposals. Despite our efforts requesting the Crown to act honourably through meaningful and advance consultation, the previous Government attempted to rush unbalanced and potentially damaging policy through the approval process without providing adequate information or meaningful consultation with First Nations. It is our expectation that moving forward, Premier Ford and his Government will take a different approach,” said Regional Deputy Grand Council Chief Ed Wawia, Northern Superior Region.

“We will be evaluating the government’s commitment to CFSA-ESA equivalency and the work to reduce red tape and burden for the forest sector to support our communities. The extensions the previous government provided did not provide any long-term business certainty. Currently, the forest sector operates under a section 55 regulation until its expiration in July of 2020. How are businesses to invest when they only know what their wood supply is until 2020?

The same environmental fearmongers that wrote the ESA for the former government are at it again, spreading misinformation based on 12-year-old science. We are hoping this 10th-year review creates a new, modernized ESA that considers the most recent science and requires socio-economic impact analysis. Government owes this to the people,” said His Worship Roger Sigouin, Mayor of Hearst.

“As the Chief of a First Nation that has recently commenced operations on its Sawmill, which is employing members and generating a future for its community, it is incredibly frustrating to see foreign influence and misinformation related to the forestry sector. First Nations demand consultation prior to the development of Species at Risk policies, especially when these new and misguided regulations have the potential to be so detrimental to the future development of our community,” said Chief Joe Ladouceur, Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek.

“We have been stressing the need for a permanent solution for the forest sector; that is, allow us to operate under one act [the Crown Forest Sustainability Act (CFSA)] and hopefully this is the beginning of that constructive path forward. Once this essential first step of equivalency has been accomplished, a new, modernized ESA must consider the impacts of climate change on habitat in all species at risk policy. The cumulative socio-economic impacts of all species at risk policy must be completed and shared with impacted stakeholders and rights holders prior to any policy being implemented,” said Jamie Lim, OFIA President & CEO, OFIA.