Bill Gallagher, Author, Lawyer, Strategist
Resource Rulers: Fortune and Folly on Canada’s Road to Resources
Not to diminish all the other subjects addressed in the first 20 pages, my area of interest lies in the 3 closing pages focusing on resource projects. To set the stage, here is a list of headlines just the week before the U.N. Report issued, which underscore the relevancy of the final three pages:
May 2 ‘Tsleil-Waututh to take legal action to block Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion’ (Huff Post)
May 5: ‘Indigenous lawsuits could paralyze the tar sands’ (VICE Can)
May 5: ‘Conflict will be the norm if mining company ignores our concerns (Huff Post)
May 6: Yukon Party won’t cancel mineral claims in the Peel (CBC)
May 6: “Stall” shale gas industry, top public health officer says (CBC NB)
May 7: ‘Northern Gateway investor money will ‘sit there and rot’, warns chief (CP)
May 8: ‘Protests shift to protocol: BC First Nations hail new way forward for business’ (CP)
May 9: ‘NWT elders parliament votes for a freeze on fracking’ (CBC)
May 9: ‘Study on impacts of uranium mining to extend Quebec moratorium another year’ (Mining.com)
May 10: “First Nations consent crucial to dam project’ (Globe & Mail)
The U.N. Report issued May 12, and to highlight its media currency and business relevancy, para 73 identifies and addresses no less than 6 of the foregoing resource projects, calling them: ‘proposed or implemented development projects that they (natives) feel pose great risks to their communities and about which they feel their concerns have not been adequately heard, or addressed’. (The report cites 16 such projects.)
I have been commenting on several of these same projects and my list of projects in the native empowerment ‘blender’ is considerably longer.
My first endorsement: it cannot be realistically argued that the U.N. Report misses-the-mark in terms of its media currency and business relevancy as it profiles a host of resource projects currently in the native empowerment ‘blender’.
The U.N. report is relevant in another key area as it clearly dovetails with Doug Eyford’s PMO report in pointing out the shortcomings of the regulatory approval process in satisfying the ‘duty to consult’, saying:
‘… Indigenous governments deliver these concerns to a federally appointed review panel that may have little understanding of aboriginal rights jurisprudence or concepts and that reportedly operates under a very formal, adversarial process with little opportunity for real dialogue. (U.N Report para 72)
Here’s Eyford’s perspective in his words: ‘ … the formality of the environmental assessments inhibits Crown-Aboriginal dialogue. It is costly for Aboriginal communities to participate, the focus is often technical, and the process can be time consuming. Further, the joint panel review for the Northern Gateway Pipeline project demonstrates how regulatory processes can turn into adversarial proceedings damaging relations between the Crown and industry on the one hand, and Aboriginal communities on the other.’ (Eyford Report to the Prime Minister Nov 29/ 2013 pg 35).
My second endorsement: it cannot be realistically argued that the U.N. Report is offside on this key ‘duty to consult’ regulatory aspect as it clearly mirrors the Eyford report. There has to be independent dialogue.
In ‘Resource Rulers’ preface, Professor Alan Cairns O.C. compellingly argues that the advances that native empowerment has now realized: ‘requires sophisticated statesmanship. It is a political task of the highest order.’ (pg xi). Here’s the U.N. Report essentially saying the same thing:
81. ‘… To that end, it is necessary for Canada to arrive at a common understanding with aboriginal peoples of objectives and goals that are based on full respect for their constitutional, treaty, and its internationally-recognized rights.’ (Conclusions & Recommendations)
My third endorsement is: it cannot be realistically argued that the U.N. Report’s call for statesmanship can be ignored. Indeed it might be well seen as a last chance; that’s because I foresee a ‘perfect storm’ blowing-in if its resource recommendations are not taken seriously in Ottawa.