More First Nations consultation and accommodation required – Rae – by Simon Rees ( – March 5, 2014)

TORONTO ( – Former Premier of Ontario and chief negotiator for the Matawa First Nations Bob Rae told delegates at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada conference that greater efforts are needed to embed the practice of consultation and accommodation between the mining sector and Canada’s First Nations communities.

Equally, the First Nations must be able to provide answers when a company approaches to consult. “[The] First Nations have to ask themselves: ‘what shall we say when we‘re asked our opinion? What do we say when we’re consulted?’” Rae said on Tuesday. “It’s not easy, but it is essential.”

Rae acknowledged that the duty to consult and engage still has many imprecisions, often because the foundations of best practice continue to be solidified, frequently through the court system. “People say: ‘what does it mean that there’s a duty to accommodate and consult? How why does it [work]?’ … As frustrating as that is, these issues are still going to be litigated. It’s still a contested area of the law,” he said.

Fitting into this, both federal and provincial governments should work towards strengthening and streamlining the framework that facilitates accommodation. “Governments must create a process that helps to define, for companies and for First Nations, exactly how the process of accommodation is supposed to take place. What is the discussion? How is it supposed to happen? How do we make it happen?” he said.

In many instances, a change in mindset is required within various government bodies and departments, particularly those involved in Canada’s far north, to consider First Nations communities as partners in progress, not just as stakeholders.

In addition, provinces that have historic treaties with the First Nations would do well to examine those provinces that do not, such as Quebec and British Columbia, and examine how they have often been able to push through changes at a faster and often more dynamic pace.

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