Frequently Asked Questions

Why are the two First Nations leading this Northern Road Link Project?

The Northern Road Link is being developed with the future in mind, most current options are unreliable for the future of Indigenous communities and the well-being of northern Ontario in the years to come. The Northern Road Link is intended to build reliable connections to infrastructure in the north and enhance the potential for economic development in northern Ontario.

Marten Falls First Nation and Webequie First Nation are proponents of an Indigenous-led environmental assessment so that they are able to generate the information needed to make an informed decision. The two First Nations also want to ensure the environmental stewardship for their traditional territories. By exercising their inherent right to self-determination, Marten Falls First Nation and Webequie First Nation are aiming to improve the quality of life for its membership and to create opportunities for the community members and future generations.

How long is the road and where will it connect to?

The Project map on the home page illustrates where the proposed route will be, and the length of the road is estimated to be approximately 117 to 164 km long, depending upon the identified preferred route. The Northern Road Link will connect the proposed Marten Falls Community Access Road to the proposed Webequie Supply Road in the McFaulds Lake area (an area with large mineral deposits known as the Ring of Fire).

What is a Terms of Reference (TOR)?

A document prepared by the proponent and submitted to the Ministry of the Environment for approval. The ToR sets out the framework for the planning and decision-making process to be followed by the proponent during the preparation of an environmental assessment. In other words, it is the proponent’s work plan for what is going to be studied. If approved, the environmental assessment must be prepared according to the terms of reference.

What is an environmental assessment (EA)?

Environmental assessment is a regulatory process led by a proponent to assess the potential environmental effects (positive or negative) of a proposal. For a proposal subject to the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act (OEAA), key components of an environmental assessment include consultation with government agencies and the public; consideration and evaluation of alternatives; and, the management of potential environmental effects. Conducting an environmental assessment promotes good environmental planning before decisions are made about proceeding with a proposal. Where a proposal is subject to the terms of Part II of the OEAA, the proposal is subject to an “individual” environmental assessment.

Why are both an environmental assessment (EA) and an impact assessment (IA) being carried out for the NRL?

This project is undertaking a coordinated EA process where the proponent and government review agencies work together to efficiently coordinate review periods in the provincial and federal environmental assessment processes. The idea is that one report will be generated that satisfies both the provincial and federal environmental assessment processes for the project. Separate approvals are often still required by both governments.  The project also may require an IA under the federal Impact Assessment Act (IAA).

How can individuals participate in the EA/IA process?

Information about the project engagement activities will be available here on the project website www.northernroadlink.ca

I understand the Environmental Assessment is community-led. What does this mean?

The Northern Road Link will be community-led, which means that Marten Falls First Nation (MFFN) and Webequie First Nation (WFN) have come together as the project Proponent. The project Team includes members of both communities who will guide, direct and provide input from their respective Chiefs and Councils, Community Member Advisors and community membership.

There is a desire for frequent and meaningful engagement of MFFN and WFN community members in decision-making, and the consideration of MFFN and WFN traditions, traditional knowledge and land use in a culturally appropriate manner throughout the development of the Terms of Reference (ToR) and Environmental Assessment (EA) process. MFFN and WFN, with support from technical experts, will engage with neighbouring Indigenous communities, agencies and interested persons to consider their input when making decisions related to the design and development of the Northern Road Link.

What are baseline studies?

Scientific, technical and other studies to characterize existing natural environments and socio-economic conditions.

What are cumulative effects and will a cumulative effects assessment be carried out for the NRL?

Cumulative effects are the combined effects of the project with the effects of other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future projects and activities in the region. On their own these effects may be minor, but together they can become significant, and can occur over both space and time. It is highly likely that a cumulative effects assessment will be carried out for the NRL, as one is required for both the Webequie Supply Road and the MFFN Community Access Road under the Impact Assessment Act of Canada.

Who will own and maintain the NRL?

At this point in time, there is no answer to this question. WFN and MFFN are proponents of the NRL environmental assessment study, but there is not yet a proponent of the possible road construction. There has been some initial work done looking at possible project delivery/ownership models for this and other proposed all-season roads in the area, but this work is very much still in progress.

What are the opportunities to participate during and after the environmental assessment?

There will be plenty of opportunities to participate in the project during and after the EA. Please see the response above about consultation.  It is our understanding that the intention of the Ontario government will provide participant funding and addition information will be shared when available.

Community members know the land better than anyone. How will the project team be making use of this local knowledge?

Our project team relies heavily on community members to share their knowledge of the land in many ways, including working with us side-by-side in the field to do environmental surveys and sharing with us which local plants and animals are used by them and how they are used (i.e., food, medicine, spiritual ceremonies). Our environmental assessment will be a blend and analysis of both Western Science and Indigenous knowledge.

What will happen if impacts related to the proposed road are identified during the planning and consultation process?

WFN and MFFN will start the EA process for the Northern Road Link by first developing a Terms of Reference required under the Provincial EA process, in addition to starting the Federal Impact Assessment (IA) process. Through these processes, the project Team will be involved in a careful and rigorous evaluation of potential impacts (or effects). If potential impacts are identified, plans will be made to avoid or mitigate/manage them before decisions are made about the proposed road. Feedback received during the consultation phase will help inform the project Team as they make decisions about routing and design. The ToR and EA/IA process will provide a range of opportunities for concerns to be raised with the project Team who will seriously consider and address any issues put forward.

When will the road be completed?

Information about the project schedule will be available here on the project website www.northernroadlink.ca

How did they come up with the idea for the road?

In 2018 Marten Falls started collecting information on all past studies done on a road to connect the Marten Falls Community Access Road to the Ring of Fire.  A few community level events were used to present this information and get feedback, and as a result a few alternatives were developed, and some historic alternatives were amended to account for community values.  Discussions occurred among Ontario, Marten Fall First Nation (MFFN) and Webequie First Nation (WFN) resulting in the announcement of an agreement to work together in March 2020.

Are a railway and transmission lines proposed for the same corridor?

At this point, only an all-season gravel road is proposed for the corridor.

To what standards will the road be built?

The standards applied to the proposed road will be appropriate to the intended use and purpose of the road.

Why is the Northern Road Link project not part of one larger project that includes the Webequie Supply Road and Marten Falls Community Access Road projects?  Is this not dividing one project into three?

It should be recognized that the Northern Road Link is a unique infrastructure project and that the three proposed road projects are distinct from each other with different purposes designed to meet the specific objectives of their respective proponents.

Separate environmental assessments (EAs) allow for each Project to be studied and assessed independently, based on their specific purpose, criteria, and impacts, while still permitting appropriate consideration of potential cumulative effects that may result should all three projects be approved.

Why can’t you wait for the Regional Assessment to be completed so that there is a fuller picture of the region?

Regional assessments are decided by the Government of Canada to go beyond project-focused impact assessments to understand the regional context and provide more comprehensive analyses to help inform future impact assessment decisions.  As such, the regional assessment is being conducted in the area centred on the Ring of Fire mineral deposits. The two proponent First Nations will be participating in the regional assessment. The Regional assessment process is not meant to stop ongoing assessments.

What do you do for consultation?

Consultation takes many forms, from Open House sessions, to meeting with Indigenous communities or individual stakeholders, live streaming sessions, and radio broadcasts as well as virtual forums, online meetings and teleconferences.  The purpose of the consultation is to promote effective two-way communications between the MFFN/WFN proponents and Indigenous communities and stakeholders to present and receive information, to identify and address issues and concerns related to the NRL project.  The best way to keep informed about the project and learn about upcoming events is via the project website, www.northernroadlink.ca or on NRL social media channels.

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