A worthy fight for First Nations: Choosing to become partners in Canada’s energy vision – by Claudia Cattaneo (National Post – December 6, 2013)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

With the release Thursday of Douglas Eyford’s roadmap to address aboriginal concerns over energy projects in Alberta and British Columbia, First Nations have come to a fork in the road.

They can choose the way opened wide by Canada’s Prime Minister, to whom Mr. Eyford reports, along with provincial governments, industry and scores of Canadians, and become partners in Canada’s great energy vision.

Or they can continue to oppose, in the hope that preserving what they have offers greater upside, and considering that 300,000 of their youths will be entering the workforce over the next 10 years.

They should also consider that Canada is more motivated than ever today to resolving First Nations grievances, and that such enthusiasm is unlikely to last.

Industry, which needs to build oil pipelines and liquefied natural gas plants to open new markets for oil and gas in Asia, has changed its ways to ensure First Nations are engaged and prepared to benefit. Provincial governments are all ears. And now Ottawa, whose default position in the past was to look the other way rather than engage, resolve disputes or spell out obligations, wants to be part of the solution.

As Joe Oliver, Canada’s natural resources minister, said in Vancouver: “Building stronger relationships based on trust is the key to creating momentum and I am personally committed to making this happen.”

For the last eight months, Mr. Eyford, Stephen Harper’s special envoy on West Coast energy infrastructure charged with coming up with approaches to help meet Canada’s goal of expanding energy markets while increasing aboriginal participation in the economy, held 289 meetings in Alberta and British Columbia. He had 48 with First Nations, 28 with aboriginal organizations, 16 with project proponents and industry associations, 29 with government departments and 25 with individuals and groups.

“I believe there is a strong interest and a real opportunity for Canada and First Nations communities to more effectively collaborate and address their respective interests,” he said to reporters. “There are high expectations that governments and First Nations will embrace the opportunities offered by development. It’s also clear that progress will only occur if the constitutionally protected rights of aboriginal Canadians are taken into account in project development.”

In his 51-page report, presented to Mr. Harper a few days ago, he highlighted three major areas in need of action:

“Canada must take decisive steps to build trust with aboriginal Canadians, to foster their inclusion into the economy, and to advance the reconciliation of Aboriginal people and non-aboriginal people in Canadian society.”

For the rest of this article, click here: http://business.financialpost.com/2013/12/05/a-worthy-fight-for-first-nations-choosing-to-become-partners-in-canadas-energy-vision/?__lsa=3743-9718



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