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During the past decade, Canada’s aboriginals have turned natural resource projects such as the Northern Gateway pipeline into a lever to assert their interests, regardless of whether they clashed with those of the country as a whole.
Based on the belief that the law is on their side, they have threatened to go to court if Prime Minister Stephen Harper approves the Alberta-to-West Coast pipeline next month, and if he does, to sabotage it if proponent Enbridge Inc. dares to build it.
Cheered on by anti-oil advocates, some aboriginals say ‘social licence’ has moved ahead of all criteria to determine whether a natural resource project can go ahead. The United Nations’ top advocate for the rights of indigenous people fanned the flames Monday by suggesting Ottawa should “probably” consider blocking Northern Gateway.
It’s a speeding train that needs a course correction before a ruling on the Northern Gateway becomes another reason for aboriginals to feel shortchanged.
Dwight Newman, the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Rights in Constitutional and International Law at the University of Saskatchewan, provides impetus for that in a new paper for the Macdonald Laurier Institute.
Aboriginals do not have the right to veto projects and their high expectations are based on a lot of misunderstanding about the law, he argues.
Indeed, Mr. Newman, a Rhodes scholar with a doctorate from Oxford University, says those who perpetuate misunderstandings about the “duty to consult” — the legal doctrine behind much of aboriginals’ newfound empowerment over natural resource projects — “are standing in the way of Canada’s future.”
“Perhaps the most damaging misunderstanding about the constitutional duty to consult is that it will be wielded by aboriginal peoples who are by nature opposed to development to consistently thwart progress in accessing Canada’s rich resources,” he writes in The Rule and the Role of Law, the Duty to Consult, Aboriginal Communities and the Canadian Natural Resource Sector.
For the rest of this column, click here: http://business.financialpost.com/2014/05/12/oil-pipeline-consultation-with-aboriginals-doesnt-equate-to-veto-report-argues/?__lsa=13b0-76f8