Response to Big Thunder Wind Park, EBR

Ontario Ministry of the Environment
Operations Division
Environmental Approvals Branch
2 St. Clair Avenue West, Floor 12A
Toronto Ontario M4V 1L5
Phone: (416) 325-3306

April 24, 2013

Re: Renewable Energy Approval (REA) by Horizon Wind Inc. for the Big Thunder Wind Park (EBR Registry Number 011-8937; Ministry Reference Number: 6763-8X2RE9)

To Whom it May Concern:

In response to Horizon Wind Inc.’s proposed Renewable Energy Approval request for the so-called “Big Thunder Wind Park” within the traditional territory of Fort William First Nation, I wish to make the following statement.

I am categorically opposed not only to Horizon Wind Inc.’s project proposal, but, more importantly, to the provincial application and review institution governing this (dis)approval process in and of itself. While I am opposed to Horizon’s project proposal because it will negatively affect my community’s ability to access and practice our culture, I cannot even begin to address these concerns when I consider the fact that the application, commenting provisions, and (dis)approval processes have been vested in your ministry at the expense of Anishinabek jurisdiction for discerning land use.

The land upon which the Big Thunder Wind Park is proposed is under jurisdiction of the Anishinabek (Ojibwe), particularly the Anishinabek community of Fort William First Nation; this is a jurisdiction we share with Ontarians and Canadians. We, like many other Anishinabek and Indigenous communities, find our spiritual, cultural, economic and political meaning through our relationship with our lands. Such meaning is not limited to the reservation boundary, and yet as a community we have endured more than a century of land loss in the name of settler society’s industrial development.

Indeed, the people of Fort William First Nation have lost over 8,630 acres of land through illegal expropriation since 1859. The land we lost was the best hunting and agricultural grounds we had; roughly half of it was used for industrial operations and subsequently severely polluted. This history has shown us that EuroCanadians do not respect our jurisdiction over our lands, nor our understandings about human-environment relationality.

Without such an understanding, this (dis)approval process cannot effectively be resolved. Your ministry cannot presume to be an arbiter of land-use decision making within Anishinabe Aki (Anishinabe Territory) without Anishinabek knowledge holders leading the process. Our knowledge holders are fully capable of using Anishinabe knowledge to make decisions about our territory – Western science is an embodiment of a Eurocentric worldview and should not be seen as the only valid perspective on the environment. However, paradoxically, including Anishinabe knowledge in this process, which would be exemplified by including Anishinabek leadership directly in the highest level of decision making, is preempted by your ministry’s assumed jurisdiction over our lands.

You will note that as a ministry within the Province of Ontario, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment gains its jurisdiction through the fiction of imperial sovereignty as asserted in the British North America Act, 1867. Sections 91 and 92 of that Act provide that provinces have jurisdiction over the management of public lands. Anishinabek, like other Indigenous peoples, were not consulted and did not consent to such assertion of sovereignty – it existed merely in the minds of colonialists interested in robbing Indigenous peoples of their lands and political autonomy. Against this backdrop, the jurisdiction of the Ontario Ministry of the Environment must be read as a corollary fiction: the provinces assumed the day to day operations of managing (i.e. occupying and exploiting) Indigenous lands. Your ministry, despite its best intentions, is thus complicit with that larger negation of Anishinabek sovereignty to the extent that it does not defer land-use decisions in our territory to Anishinabek knowledge holders.

Sections 91 and 92 of the Act defy our understanding of our nation-to-nation relationship with the Crown. It is our understanding that by entering into the Robinson-Superior Treaty of 1850, we were going to share the lands with settler Canadians in a manner that respected each party’s political sovereignty; the creation of Indian reservations as discussed in the Treaty does not negate Anishinabek jurisdiction beyond the reserve boundaries. Further, it should be noted that the Indian Act is not to be used in such a way as to shield the federal or provincial governments from the nation-to-nation relationship embodied in the Robinson-Superior Treaty.

Therefore, in refuting the basis of your authority – namely, sections 91 and 92 of the British North America Act, 1867 – I dispute the very grounds upon which Horizon Wind Inc.’s application for Renewal Energy Approval are founded. Addressing the Big Thunder Wind Park proposal through the Ontario Ministry of the Environment undermines our sovereignty and understanding that gave rise to the Robinson-Superior Treaty. (Because of this, this letter should not be seen as tacit acceptance of the EBR Registry as a legitimate institution in regards to supporting land-use (dis)approvals within Anishinabe Aki – I merely seek to make my thoughts known through all available channels)

As a proposed resolution, I urge the Ontario Ministry of the Environment to refer this matter to the Premier of Ontario, with the express recommendation that a political solution be found to Horizon Wind Inc.’s Big Thunder Wind Park proposal. Such a solution will be valid only to the extent to which the Premier recognizes Fort William First Nation’s responsibilities to decide what should happen within its traditional territory, including the right to refuse industrial projects that it decides will have a detrimental impact on our culture, community, identity, access to traditional foods, and so on. Anishinabek leadership must be directly involved in the highest level of decision making regarding this project.

Best regards,

Damien Lee

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