New Table Established with First Nations to Proceed with Electric Vehicle Battery Projects
On September 15 the Ontario government announced it had reached an agreement to establish the Three Fires Nations-Ontario Southwestern Ontario Infrastructure and Economic Opportunities Table. Included are the following: Aamjiwnaang First Nation, Bkejwanong First Nation (Walpole Island), Caldwell First Nation, Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation in southwestern Ontario.
The establishment of the structure is linked to the government’s plans to make Ontario a source of critical minerals and build a large electric vehicle battery plant in Windsor. Many of the First Nations at the new Table had immediately raised concerns following the Ontario election when the mayor of Windsor swiftly requested ministerial intervention to “expedite” the rezoning of some parcels of the land the city had assembled for building the new Stellantis-LG Energy Solution’s battery plant. The First Nations in the area had not been consulted in the process as required.
With the establishment of this Table the government claims it “will advance billions of dollars in critical infrastructure, transformational investments, and clean energy projects in the region, while creating a space for meaningful dialogue, collaboration, and partnership between First Nation leaders and the province.” They also state it will lead to “enhanced collaboration between the Government of Ontario and area First Nations leadership.”
The agreement apparently “encourages more opportunities for qualified First Nations providers to support the procurement of goods and services across the province and further strengthen Ontario’s economy.”
Clearly the government and municipalities feel they have the green light to move ahead, having committed to “meaningful dialogue and collaboration and partnership” with First Nations.
“We are on a mission to build this province, and the creation of this economic opportunities table will be a game changer for the people of southwestern Ontario,” said Premier Doug Ford. “We are going to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our First Nations partners to advance critical infrastructure projects and ensure everyone benefits from the opportunities that Ontario holds. Working together, we will build a better Ontario for the generations that follow us,” he added.
Claiming this will “benefit everyone” does not make it so. Paying off big companies to rip out minerals from Indigenous lands in the north to ship them south along policed corridors for sale to the U.S. and other markets, is consistent with the aim of building an economy that is unsustainable. It does not benefit the working people or the First Nations of Ontario.
It was only when First Nations intervened to assert that they had to be involved that a new “Table” was set up. More bureaucracy will not resolve real problems. Those who are affected by the decisions do not in fact benefit but are left behind. This has been the case to date and is only getting worse as mining operations in Ontario’s north continue to poison the land and water from ripping out massive amounts of value that private interests expropriate. The people of Grassy Narrows continue to fight to have the destruction of their health recognized, let alone have their lands and lives restored. Arguments about “greening the economy” with an all-Ontario electric vehicle supply chain that starts with minerals extracted from mainly Indigenous territories in this way begs the questions: what is the aim and who benefits?
What will happen to the talk about collaboration and standing-shoulder-to-shoulder when First Nations do not agree to give their consent and request measures which protect Mother Earth and make restitution to them and their communities in a meaningful way?
This house of cards will come crashing down — again.