The Environment Sector provides advice, guidance, and recommendations to the Political Confederacy (PC) and Chiefs of Ontario on water, natural resources, energy, species at risk, traditional knowledge, environmental assessments, mining, climate change, and others.
There are currently several areas where the Environment Unit has undertaken initiatives to safeguard First Nations rights and interests. This has entailed engagement with the federal and provincial governments on matters related to drinking water safety; working with the COO Health Unit to streamline efforts to develop the tools and instruments to address environmental health; and, more recently, working to deliver training on a First Nation Environmental Assessment Toolkit that would assist communities as they assert jurisdiction over their territories’ lands and resources.
Since 1975, when the Chiefs of Ontario (COO) was first established, numerous environmental resolutions have been passed by the Chiefs in Assembly. The resolutions address the four elements of water, air, land and energy. In regards to the environment, we often see these key issues and general themes reoccurring:
- The failure of governments and private industry to consult, accommodate and otherwise obtain the free, prior and informed consent of First Nations;
- That in making Treaties First Nation peoples did not give up their rights to manage the lands, the waters and all beings in their territories;
- First Nations being the first to feel the effects of policy decisions that often leads to the contamination of either lands, air or water; and
- A lack of resources to adequately deal with the environmental issues faced by First Nations.
These challenges persist primarily because of the longstanding failure of governments to recognize and respect our Treaties.
The Chiefs of Ontario Environment Department is designed, in part, to meet these challenges. The Unit was formally created in 2005 at the 31st Annual All Ontario Chiefs Conference in Eagle Lake First Nation.