OTTAWA – A government working group set up to ensure aboriginals share the benefits of natural resource development is more than a month behind schedule because the Assembly of First Nations has yet to nominate its members.
The delay comes after the previous incarnation, a joint economic task force, fell apart last November after two AFN appointees quit, according to briefing notes released to Global News under access to information.
The creation of a working group was among the pledges made at this year’s Jan. 11 meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and National Chief Shawn Atleo, and reflects a similar commitment made at the 2012 Crown-First Nations gathering.
The four-member group, with two members and co-chairs each nominated by the AFN and the department of aboriginal affairs, was supposed to start its seven-month term on June 1.
But that hasn’t happened. The federal government has picked its members, but the AFN has not. Once the nominees are in place, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt will make the appointments, the note says.
“We are working to ensure we can get the right people in place on the group to ensure it is useful and produces results,” an AFN spokesman said in a statement.
“In the meantime, there is no reason to withhold progress for First Nations that are pursuing their own laws, projects or processes on a local, regional or even national basis. The National Chief has confirmed that this remains a priority and together with the national executive, the working group will be confirmed this month.”
He said resource revenue sharing will also be a prominent issue at the upcoming Council of the Federation meeting, hosted by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne in Niagara-on-the-Lake July 24 to 26.
Resource development and revenue sharing with First Nations on projects ranging from mining, oil sands and pipelines has been top-of-mind in recent years for Canada’s aboriginals who want more say, and stake, in what is developed on traditional land.
Former Liberal MP Bob Rae recently quit politics to take on the role of chief negotiator for First Nations with the province in the Ring of Fire mining development in Northern Ontario, while a Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business report released last month says the natural resource sector could prove an important asset in addressing a high jobless rate among Canada’s aboriginal population.
Derek Nepinak, Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs who is seen as a rival to Atleo, said resource equity is at the heart of the honouring the treaty relationship with First Nations.
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