The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.
A lawyer, who has represented both companies and First Nations in negotiating impact benefit agreements, says he’s encouraged by the regional framework agreement signed last week by the province and the Matawa chiefs for the Ring of Fire.
Bill Gallagher of Waterloo, an experienced strategist in the area of native, government and corporate relations, who has written a book on the subject, says it wouldn’t have been easy to achieve that outcome.
It would have been a challenge for former Ontario New Democrat premier Bob Rae, who represented the nine Matawa councils, and retired Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci, representing the government of Ontario, to reach the deal.
For Rae to get the chiefs working in a cohesive manner would, to some extent, “be like herding cats,” said Gallagher in an interview last week from Winnipeg where he was speaking at a conference along with Rae.
Rae is a lawyer whose clients are giving him instruction, he’s giving them advice and it seems to be working, said Gallagher.
“There’s no lack of pissed-off First Nations in this country,” said Gallagher, who has represented some of them and written about them and others in his book Resource Rulers: Fortune and Folly on Canada’s Road to Resources.
“For a group to come together and extend a collaborative hand that seems to be pro-resource development, I think you have to read this as finally Ontario has stopped digging and finally we’re on the roadway to having a more productive dialogue on northern resource extraction.”
In a chapter in his book called Time Warp, Gallagher maintains Ontario fell into a “major time warp” in 1995 with the Ontario Provincial Police shooting of Dudley George at Ipperwash, “and we’re still trying to work out way out of it.
“That explains a lot of what’s happened at Caledonia, and in other centres that can go sideways in a hurry.”
Northwestern Ontario could go “sideways,” said Gallagher, and could turn into an area where it could take a long time to get anything done in terms of working out agreements between First Nations, and governments and corporations.
While Gallagher praised Rae for helping to negotiate the regional framework agreement, he said one of the biggest challenges for Rae now will be “managing expectations.”
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