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To imagine that aboriginal leaders are anything but shrewd negotiators would be to do them a severe disservice
Aboriginal leaders responded enthusiastically to Thursday’s Supreme Court landmark ruling on aboriginal land title. The case revolved around land claimed by the Tsilhqot’in Nation in an area of the B.C. interior around Williams Lake.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, reported that the room where he and fellow chiefs heard the news was filled with “cheers and tears” and that everybody was “absolutely jubilant.” Chief Phillip went on to say: “This without question will establish a solid platform for genuine reconciliation to take place in British Columbia.”
What everybody wants to know is what the decision means for pipeline development through the province, and in particular for Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project to pump 525,000 barrels of day of diluted bitumen from the Alberta oil sands to Kitimat. Williams Lake is far to the south of the Northern Gateway route, but the decision has implications for aboriginal land claims throughout B.C. and indeed Canada.
Northern Gateway was approved last December by a federal Joint Review Panel, subject to 209 often arduous (and as William Watson pointed out on this page on Thursday, sometimes multi-part) conditions. Last week the JRP’s decision was backed by the Conservative government of Stephen Harper. However, like the Keystone XL project from the oil sands to the Gulf Coast — which is proposed by Enbridge’s great rival TransCanada Corp. — Northern Gateway has become the focus for a huge campaign of opposition, and indeed demonization and misinformation, by environmental non-governmental organizations.
Those groups have skillfully used very genuine aboriginal discontents to recruit natives as ostensible allies in the cause of non-development. Meanwhile the ENGOs have also succeeded in spooking many ordinary citizens of the province beyond quite reasonable environmental concerns about the project.
Opposition has also been helped by the failure of the federal government, and that of B.C., to see eye to eye, although this definitely does not require a “national energy strategy.”
The Supreme Court suggests governments get their act together in dealing honourably with native people, and who could argue with that?
For the rest of this column, click here: http://business.financialpost.com/2014/06/26/peter-foster-aboriginal-response-to-supreme-court-land-ruling-should-be-to-move-forward/