By Joey Krackle
Anthony Laforge, Director of Lands and Resources for Magnetawan First Nation says that their land code puts Magnetawan in the driver’s seat for the negotiation of the expansion of Highway 69 to four lanes.
Magnetawan First Nation has been in negotiations with the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) in Ontario since 2013 over the four laning of Highway 69. In 2014, Magnetawan First Nation passed a Band Council Resolution to provide MTO with a route that would bisect the First Nation.
Chief and Council are pursuing economic development activities to be located at the highway interchange which will be located adjacent to the community. In 2013, this First Nation was awarded an Aboriginal Pilot Project to provide aggregate for MTO. Magnetawan First Nation partnered with the Miller Group Inc. and Nimkii Explosives as sub-contractors and leased the Carling Quarry to successfully complete this project.
“This project provided Magnetawan with valued experience working and administering the project and will enable us to follow Chief and Council’s direction to explore all possibilities in creating partnerships, agreements, joint ventures, etc. that will allow us to continue to economic development to benefit our citizens,” said Laforge.
After beginning discussions in 2013, Magnetawan co-partnered with Henvey Inlet and Shawanaga First Nations to create the Shwe Miikaan Inc. a construction company that includes providing aggregate, building bridges and doing road maintenance as part of their contract work. This company allows the three First Nations to come together and develop a long term relationship for developing individual economies as well as providing us with greater leverage in negotiations with MTO on completing the remaining 82 kilometers on the double laning of highway #69 with a projected cost of $1.5 billion.
The proposed area for Highway #69 is our the overlapping territory of each of the three First Nations and this company could open doors for us and allow our First Nations to partner with experienced and highly successful highway construction companies.
“Our potential quarry location aggregate has been tested and given CF1 rating which qualifies for any high cost work being proposed by MTO which allows Magnetawan First Nation to be in an excellent position to provide aggregate,” said Laforge.
Adam Good, Administrative Manager for Shawanaga First Nation and Shwe Miikaan Inc. representative said that in order for Shawanage to begin working towards economic self-sufficiency, his community would need to re-establish our governance over the land and resources.
“We would better understand the commercial opportunities that surround the community and would ultimately need capable and willing partners,” said Good. “When Shwe Miikaan Inc. was launched, and incentives were put in place to promote partnerships between First Nations and industry proponents, we knew that it would finally be possible to start realizing our goals.”
Shawanaga First Nation has always exercised their rights and fulfilled their responsibilities and obligations for the land upon which they were placed from time immemorial. Shawanaga took another step towards reclaiming their land rights through adoption of their Consultation Policy which was adopted in 2009. They officially reclaimed the management and control of its reserve land, resources and environment when their Land Code was ratified by its membership on May 20, 2015.
Henvey Inlet First Nation ratified its land code in 2009 and Magnetawan and Shawanaga both ratified their land codes in 2015 in a determined attempt to have the ability to manage and control their lands, resources and the environment and to further control the development of their economies.
Ray Kagagins, Henvey Inlet First Nation Consultation Coordinator emphasized that their land code was a major force in determining their future development.
“Having the ability and authority to manage our lands and resources permitted our First Nation to engage in economic development projects as a way to improve the livelihoods of our citizens.” said Kagagins. “Recently we partnered to build the largest wind farm on a First Nation in Canada.”