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Northern Road Link Project Approved to Advance Environmental Assessment

Marten Falls and Webequie First Nation receive Notice of Approval from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks on the Environmental Assessment Terms of Reference (“ToR”).

Toronto, Ontario, Monday March 6, 2023 – The Northern Road Link project has received approval to proceed with its provincial environmental assessment, it was announced today. Following an extensive two-year consultation and technical planning process, The Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) has approved the project’s Terms of Reference (ToR), which will serve as an essential framework for the Environmental Assessment.

The Northern Road Link (NRL) is a proposal by two proponent First Nations; Marten Falls First Nation and Webequie First Nation, to build an all-season gravel road that is approximately 117 km to 164 km in length (depending on the chosen corridor). If built, the gravel road would have the potential to connect to the future Webequie Supply Road (WSR) and the Marten Falls Community Access Road (MFCAR) in the McFaulds Lake area of northwestern Ontario.

Says Chief Achneepineskum, Marten Falls First Nation; “ToR approval has been several years in the making but taking the time to do it right has been worthwhile. It has been a tremendous amount of work to develop a comprehensive and community-led framework to guide the environmental assessment. Today’s approval follows two-years of consultation with neighbouring Indigenous communities, the public, government agencies and other interested parties, on all components of the environmental assessment. Our First Nations are grateful to community members for their participation and direction, our advisors, and everyone who has participated in this planning work. We look forward to continued engagement and input as the environmental assessment activities advance.”

The proposed Northern Road Link will be a two-lane, all-weather access road with water crossings built to accommodate both passenger and commercial vehicles. The Project would enable economic activity by facilitating the transportation of goods, services and people in remote northern Ontario that is not currently accessible by all-season road.

Says Chief Wabasse, Webequie First Nation; “The Northern Road Link has the potential to become a critical transportation linkage for remote First Nations in Ontario but these opportunities must also be balanced against the potential environmental and socio-cultural risks associated with building a road. Our Indigenous-led approach has been designed to study the project’s potential impacts and effects, as well as alternatives and possible mitigations, and most importantly, to allow First Nations people to make informed decisions about the future development of their traditional lands.”

In 2020, Marten Falls First Nation and Webequie First Nation both signed an agreement with the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) for the project to follow the individual environmental assessment process under Ontario’s Environmental Assessment Act.

The ToR for the Northern Road Link was submitted to the MECP for approval in 2022, as required under the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act, RSO 1990, c. E.18. As part of the approval process, Indigenous communities, the public, agencies, and other interested parties were encouraged to review the ToR proposal and submit comments to the province for consideration.

Continues Chief Wabasse; “This project has the potential to finally bring economic reconciliation for remote First Nations in Ontario, and we are proud to be at the forefront of this planning process with our sister Nation in Marten Falls.”

Learn more: northernroadlink.ca

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