Ontario Chiefs say province failed duty to consult First Nations on new housing bill

OTTAWA- Indigenous leaders across Ontario are calling for the repeal of a new housing bill that they say was passed without consulting First Nations and could put their communities at risk.

The Chiefs of Ontario, which represents 133 First Nations, say Bill 23, aimed at spurring housing development,  could fast-track projects that might have adverse affects on Indigenous lands, waters, wildlife and treaty rights.

The Ford government passed the bill as part of its plan to build 1.5 million homes in 10 years but critics have said it will lead to higher property taxes, weaken conservation authority powers and not actually make homes more affordable.

The Grand Council Chief of the Anishinabek Nation says the province failed to engage with First Nations before passing the legislation last month, despite a requirement to do so.

Reginald Niganobe accused the province of delegating consultations to municipalities, which do not have a constitutional duty to consult with First Nations as their governments are not considered part of the Crown.

The provincial government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark has said Bill 23 received an endorsement from Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services, but Niganobe said that does not constitute engagement with First Nations.

In addition to Bill 23, the Progressive Conservative government also recently revealed plans to open some areas of protected Greenbelt land to development and is allowing mayors of Toronto and Ottawa to pass bylaws with just one-third council support on matters related to provincial priorities, such as housing.

 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

 

 

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