MAC: Mines and Communities

London Calling on losing one's marbles

Published by MAC on 2015-02-20
Source: CBC News

Claiming compensation for the theft of natural resources isn't a new idea. It's long featured in African post-colonial discourses, as have demands for the restitution of purloined cultural property which ends up housed in westerm musems.

However, a recent submission to the Ontario government of a minimum Cdn$127 million "invoice" by Canada's Nishnawbe Aski nation, calculated from a figure of over 3 billon dollars worth of forests and minerals stolen from its lands between 1911 and 2011, seems unique. It could set a precedent for similar action by other internally-colonised peoples.

Is it just a synmbolic gesture? In the following article, Nishawbe Aski deputy Grand Chief Les Loutitt is quoted as saying he doesn't really expect the province to "cut a cheque", but there are ways in which the province can "invest into Nishnawbe Aski First Nations to improve the value and quality of our lifestyles in our communities."

Perhaps that's the most prudent approach. After all, this particular First Nation's gambit isn't that far off an attempt to "financialise nature" - puting a market price on things which just can't be valued, such as being denied simple enjoyment of one's terrtory and practising traditional ceremonies upon it.

On the other hand, there may be a lesson here for the new Greek government, currently fighting for "forgiveness" of its debt by European governments.

After all, the British Musem hosts the so-called Elgin Marbles,  cut and carted away by the eponymous Earl of Elgin from the Parthenon between 1801 and 1812.

It may now be impossible to put a price on this two-centuries' old theft.

But the Greeks could take a leaf from Les Loutitt's book, arguing that the EU is now morally obliged to recognise this past plunder, and thereby "improve the value and quality" of Grecian livelihoods.

First Nations issue $127M bill to Ontario for extracted resources

By Jody Porter

CBC News

11 February 2015

Nishnawbe Aski Nation calculates value of centuries of mining, forestry on its traditional territory

The Nishnawbe Aski Nation is resubmitting an unpaid bill in the amount of $127 million to Ontario as part of the province’s budget consultation process.

The provincial treaty organization, representing 49 First Nations in northern Ontario, hired York University economics professor Fred Lazar to calculate the current value of resources extracted from its traditional territories between 1911 and 2011.

In Lazar’s 2012 report he pegged the figure at 3.2 billion dollars, and then broke that down to an annuity, with a four per cent interest rate, that would amount to 127 million dollars per year, in perpetuity.

Nisnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Les Louttit said he doesn’t really expect the province to cut a cheque “but there are ways in which they can invest into Nishnawbe Aski First Nations to improve the value and quality of our lifestyles in our communities.”

Those ways include funding such things as housing, water and sewage treatment or social programs to deal with such things as addictions, Louttit said.

The invoice from Nishnawbe Aski Nation was first submitted to Ontario in 2012 and received no response. So Louttit said he resubmitted it, according to the wishes of the chiefs he represents, during recent budget consultations in Thunder Bay.

He said it’s a way of correcting the misguided public perception, fostered by the province, about the roots of poverty in First Nations and the rights to resources.

“They convey to the public that [land ] was expropriated, it was a land surrender, it was a loss of aboriginal title,” Louttit said. “That was not the case in our view, according to our elders and the people who were there when the treaty was signed.”

Lazar based his calculations largely on the value of forestry permits issued in Nishnawbe Aski Nation and more than a dozen mines that have been developed in the area.

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