First Nations leaders want in on natural resources boom – by Les Whittington (Toronto Star – January 11, 2013)

The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

OTTAWA—Over the next decade, a huge boom in Canadian natural resource projects — possibly worth $600 billion — is foreseen on or near First Nations lands. And this time, aboriginals are demanding their share of the economic pie.

Behind the complex issues of treaties and historic rights being raised by native leaders is the dollars-and-cents reality of who gets to pocket the benefits from Canada’s mining and petroleum riches.

Natural resources generate $30 billion in provincial and federal tax and royalty revenues annually, along with tens of billions of dollars in economic activity. With worldwide demand for commodities surging upward, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has anchored his government’s economic growth strategy on a massive expansion of the highly profitable natural resource sector.

For First Nations, gaining access to more of this wealth is vital to their hopes of improving their peoples’ living standards. So, new approaches to sharing resource riches will be a key part of any talks between Harper and aboriginal leaders.

At the same time, the ability of native groups to derail the Conservatives’ blueprint for prosperity by blocking natural resource projects has been made apparent by the Idle No More protests.

The movement “can stop Prime Minister Harper’s resource development plan and his billion-dollar plan to develop resources in our ancestral territory. We have the warriors that are standing up now, that are willing to go that far,” warned Derek Nepinak, Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

It was the Harper’s government’s efforts in its 2012 budget legislation to streamline environmental rules to speed up natural resource projects that prompted the current explosion of outrage among natives.

The Conservative strategy backfired with First Nations, who see the environmental reforms as an outright attack on their lands and livelihoods. And the result has been the creation of a native movement determined to change not only Ottawa’s pared-down environmental protection rules but the entire relationship with Canada’s non-aboriginals.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Toronto Star website:–first-nations-leaders-want-in-on-natural-resources-boom