The problem with having a $50-billion windfall coming over the horizon is the danger it could mask the dark clouds that come with it.
This week Pierre Gratton, president and CEO of the Mining Association of Canada, told a Saskatoon business crowd that Saskatchewan is in for a massive capital expansion in its mining sector during the next 20 years. For those in this province who have waited more than a generation for Saskatchewan’s ship to come in, this expansion can’t be but good news.
But if Saskatchewan is to be able to take advantage of the opportunities coming its way, it has some pretty significant ducks it must still get in a row. Not the least of which is addressing First Nations’ concerns – not only in terms of allowing them a cut of the action but also coming to terms with treaty issues that have been woefully neglected by various governments for almost two centuries.
During the last few weeks the extent of that neglect gained public prominence because of the crisis in the Northern Ontario reserve of Attawapiskat. The crisis isn’t just one of housing. Attawapiskat is situated near a diamond mine but the locals haven’t been able to get much advantage from that development.
The mining company complains the people aren’t qualified for the kind of workforce needed in the mine. That is fair enough, but the failure is not just one of the local leadership. Decades of failed assimilation strategies, inadequate investment in education, a failure to address systemic social problems brought about by chronic poverty, isolation and the effects of the abusive residential school system, and an inability to create the conditions to encourage economic development on reserves have made crisis an expected outcome.
But the need to address these issues is more than a moral imperative. Unless the mining companies and the governments are able to convince the Native populations that economic development is in their own interest, as well as for the greater good, any investment will be increasingly risky.
This week, for example, British Columbia Native leaders have declared they will create an unbreakable wall to prevent Enbridge’s Northern Gateway from being built.
For the rest of this editorial, please go to The Star Phoenix website: http://www.thestarphoenix.com/business/Mining+boom+must+include/5806135/story.html