MAC: Mines and Communities

Canada: Old way of doing business is dead

Published by MAC on 2013-02-04
Source: Hill Times, CBC News

If the Idle No More story tells us anything, it is that trying to avoid necessary changes is no long

Old way of doing business is dead

By Chief Bev Sellars

21 January 2013

WILLIAMS LAKE, B.C. — The arrival of 2013 should leave little doubt anywhere in Canada that most resource development in the country impacts on aboriginal lands and territories — and that the old way of doing business is dead.

Idle no more protestors in Ottawa

Drumming down Sparks Street: Idle No More protesters,
pictured on Jan. 11 Photo: Steve Gerecke, The Hill Times

What is perhaps not quite so clear is that the federal government is not alone in needing to respond.  The provinces have control over natural resources, and often their laws and practices are the source of confrontation.

Nowhere is the clash over resources more prominent than in British Columbia, where an election will be held in three months time.  That election could signal whether British Columbia can become a model for responsible, sustainable resource extraction, or will remain a costly battleground for taxpayers, First Nations and industry investors.

Of course, the battle over the Northern Gateway Pipeline is guaranteed to be a hot election item. Fierce debate is also brewing over the development of the province’s shale gas resources.

Yet these issues are only the most recent manifestations of a battle over B.C. natural resources that has waged for years—the battle over mining. If the B.C. government and industry can work with First Nations to bring about changes in this sector, it could lead to a more certain and practical way of doing resource business in B.C. The province’s politicians are going to hear a lot more about this during the mining sector’s Round-Up week in Vancouver from Jan. 28-31. 

The latest catalyst for action is a Dec. 27  Yukon Court of Appeal ruling in favour of the Ross River Dena Council, which stated consultation should occur before claims are staked.  Given the decision was by three B.C. appeal court justices sitting in Whitehorse, and that Yukon Mining law is based on B.C. mining law, the ramifications for British Columbia are clear. As court decisions on consultation set precedents, the ramifications are also clear for Canada.

As B.C. First Nations Energy and Mining Council CEO Dave Porter pointed out earlier this month, this ruling is a “blaring wakeup call” and the government and industry have two choices:  spend years and huge sums fighting this and further deter investors from B.C. mining, or work to find a way to reform the law.

The industry has long known all is not well.  For example:  

If the Idle No More story tells us anything, it is that trying to avoid necessary changes is no long a viable or sensible option.

If change is to happen, then B.C. and its mining mess is a good place to start. The issues are well-defined; the need for reform is clear; the benefits to be gleaned are huge. 

So where are our politicians on this as we head into a B.C. election campaign? Will they show leadership in promoting positive change, or will they try to cling to a rapidly crumbling status quo.

Xat’sull (Soda Creek) First Nation Chief Bev Sellars is chair of B.C.’s First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining.

The Hill Times

First Nation halts land survey project

Fort Severn First Nation places moratorium on surveying until progress is made on treaty relationships

CBC News

29 January 2013

A northwestern Ontario First Nation has placed a moratorium on geophysical surveying of its traditional territory.

The council at Fort Severn has told the Ontario Geological Survey it's formally withdrawing its permission until Ontario and Canada recognize a government-to-government relationship with First Nations.

The letter to the Ontario Geological Survey from Fort Severn First Nation states, "The people of Fort Severn are dissatisfied with the slow reaction of the Canadian and Ontario governments to respond to the Idle No More movement and the hunger fast of Chief Theresa Spence. As a signatory of Treaty No. 9, Ontario has a responsibility to respond to the demands of the First Nations for a treaty relationship."

The letter, which was signed by Chief Joseph Crowe, adds, "The chief and council of Fort Severn Cree will revisit this decision on February 28, the next scheduled meeting of the First Nations leadership and Canada. If the people of Fort Severn are satisfied that progress has been made at this meeting, this moratorium will be lifted."

'Open the door for whoever wants to come in'

CBC News was unable to reach Chief Crowe for comment but one member of the Fort Severn council said gathering data about resources could cause problems for his community in the future.

"After the air survey is done, whatever they find is published," Angus Miles said.

"It's gonna be available to everybody. That's one of the biggest concerns we have. It's just gonna open the door for whoever wants to come in."

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines told CBC News the ministry has instructed the contractor it hired to conduct aerial surveys over Fort Severn to suspend work until further notice.

"Collecting geophysical data is part of MNDM's geoscience work," said Julia Bennett, communications co-ordinator for the ministry.

"This survey supports a five-year geology mapping plan that was developed based on the interests that were shared by the community and the OGS to study the geology in the region."

Bennett stated the now-suspended project was "going to help researchers understand the geological history of the region, the ground energy potential, mineral resource potential, groundwater implications, safety and health implications."

All the data was to be shared with the First Nation and "can help the community develop its land use plan that considers the quality of life and economic development opportunities," she added

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