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On Dec. 14, Ontario announced that the federal government has formally withdrawn its approval of the Devonian North iron ore project. The company tried to take advantage of controversial legislation that makes the government more laissez-faire about environmental assessments for major economic development projects. The company wanted to do its tailings dam expansion at the devil’s playground known as Grassy Narrows First Nation on the Northern Ontario border. The First Nation objected to the application, and the matter now lies in the hands of the courts.

The Trudeau government approved the first phase of the mine development in 2016, which would have involved an existing mine and associated tailings dam that has already been in use for more than a decade. This construction phase alone would have created more than 11,000 permanent jobs and over 600 indirect jobs. It would have also helped to build up the economy of a region that desperately needs a boost. If it were to be approved for the more controversial expansion phase of the project, which involves building a new dam, creating a new access road, and moving the tailings basin over land that is home to all the aboriginal communities, the jobs would have been about one third of what they were with the first phase of the mine.

These jobs that would have been created should have been welcomed, with open arms. Instead, the government has proposed to take the project back before the courts to give the entire project another look. That may mean the lawyers get the last word, with too little regard for the goodwill that has been built up up over the last year. The project may well get one more shot before they get rid of the government-approved consent. This development harms not only the climate but the First Nation in the north, who have legal rights to the land and the right to speak out against projects like this that damage the very land that they live on.

My partner and I live in the capital of Queen’s Park. We are members of the Ontario legislature, and we have all stood up for this issue. We have travelled to Northern Ontario on many occasions to raise awareness and campaign on behalf of the indigenous communities that are going to be affected by this mine. It breaks my heart to see members of our government violating their own laws to appease an inept federal government, giving in to a corporate power that is willing to ignore, and put profits before peoples’ lives.

We cannot continue to give in to these types of compromises from the powerful. While we call for the government to hold a public review of the project, we need a public debate. No matter how many opportunities governments have given this mine, it has still proven to be too much and too difficult for them to get a handle on. The government should hold another public consultation. The people who live in that region need to know that this effort is going to be supported by the elected representatives who sit in that house.

The people who live in the northern regions of Ontario deserve a bright future. They have been so badly affected by the first phase of this mining project, they need something different. The national government could actually be a big help by giving this project another look. A more informed debate and public approval could go a long way towards healing the rift between the developed and the developing communities in the north.

It’s time to come together and stop the deep fissures that are forming in our communities. Only with all our energies united can we seek to create a better Ontario. This should be a time for working together. Who would want to live in a place where nobody can put up their hands for simple things like a beautiful river?

I think a new future for Ontario is possible. I know it’s possible because it is all here. The plans to build a new bridge across the Detroit River won’t just make our roads better and our bridges longer. They will make us all stronger. The future of Ontario is all here for us. We just need to find it.

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