Bill Gallagher: strategist, lawyer, author
Resource Rulers: Fortune and Folly on Canada’s Road to Resources
August 26 2014
Forget native legal wins in the resources sector (now closing in on 200) here are how natives are determining resource outcomes at the negotiations table - in plain sight and in the media no less - over the course of the summer. In conversations, each example cited drew the refrain: ‘So First Nations really are Resource Rulers!’
Indeed they are - and here’s proof plus - again not counting the recent legal wins:
Pictou Pulp Mill’s effluent discharge drew a native blockade in protest. The blockade was only taken down after the Nova Scotia government pledged to pay a penalty of $1 million dollars to the First Nation if the problem wasn’t addressed in one year’s time: “should the province fail to finalize, by good faith negotiations, the timelines for cessation of effluent … the Province shall pay to the Band an ex gratia payment of $1 Million.” This is official wording from the AIP signed by the Minister of Environment, demonstrating the clout that natives wield in forcing environmental improvements.
Pacific Trails Pipeline will not transport oil from Alberta (across B.C.) unless natives consent. It transpired that the B.C. premier and the project proponents have finally agreed in writing that the right-of-way will be used only for natural gas: “The Province has given written assurance that we intend to prohibit oil from being transported … “ (B.C. Minister Rich Coleman) … “Chevron has listened to the concerns of the Moricetown Indian Band and the Wet’suwet’en people and are pleased to work towards the mutual goal of building a pipeline that above all protects people and the environment” (Chevron Canada President, Jeff Lehrmann). Again, this is official wording proving that natives determine how key LNG infrastructure will be utilized.
Fracking in Northwest Territories suffered a setback after Husky pulled out in the face of ongoing delay by regulators. While the Territorial Government is officially in favour of fracking, it transpired that NWT Elders convened a Model Parliament that debated the issue and voted for a moratorium (albeit unofficial). The result being: the “Sahtu Land and Water Board sends application back to company after receiving public letters” (CBC News). Thus it would appear that the de facto Elders Parliament outranks the de jure GNWT Parliament when it comes to deciding on whether controversial energy exploration plays should proceed.
Several other resource outcomes could be added to this brief overview: uranium mining in Quebec, oil-by-rail to the port of Churchill, wind energy in Thunder Bay, and of course, fracking on the road to Rexton. All these controversial projects are in the native empowerment ‘blender’ and are playing out concurrently with the three aforementioned outcomes. Together they cover no less than seven provinces and territories and 75% of Canada’s landmass. And that’s not counting Yukon’s Peel Watershed and Nunavut’s offshore seismic (ongoing) legal challenges; and whatever is coming down the pike in the aftermath of the Mount Polley Tailings Dam breach.
All in all it’s been an empowering summer for Canada’s Resource Rulers - from coast to coast to coast - and who knows what the Fall will bring after BC’s Aboriginal Title Holders finally sit down with the B.C. Premier in early September to chart a new course: ‘Yes they really are Resource Rulers!”