Candidates discuss bridging gap btw industry, FNs – by Alan S. Hale (Timmins Daily Press – September 15, 2015)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

TIMMINS – First Nations within Canada have become a major factor in the county’s efforts to exploit its natural resources.

Many Aboriginal communities have parlayed their treaty rights and the government’s constitutional obligation to consult them and reasonably accommodate their concerns into a great deal of power over the resource industry as a whole.

First Nations now often hold the keys when it comes to deciding if a major mining or forestry project will go ahead or not. Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline to carry Alberta bitumen to Northern B.C. has withered on the vine in the face of Aboriginal opposition, and progress on the Ring of Fire chromite development here in Northeastern Ontario has ground to a halt due in large part to local First Nations’ concerns.

Because gaining First Nation support for projects has become so important to the future of Timmins area’s economy, The Daily Press asked the candidates of Timmins-James Bay how they would build the relationship with First Nations required to allow the resource industry to continue to grow.

Conservative candidate John Curley said the Tory government has dutifully met its obligations to consult with Aboriginal communities.

“In Canada, the government currently does consult and engage with Aboriginal communities and organizations whenever considering taking an action that could affect an Aboriginal right or title, this is a duty that is constitutionally protected.,” said Curley by email. “Under the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, our government has taken this obligation seriously.”

This view was not shared by the other candidates, all of whom criticized the Harper government for not meeting face-to-face with First Nations enough.

“There has been a complete failure on the part of the Wynne government and the federal Conservatives to move anything on the Ring of Fire,” said NDP candidate Charlie Angus. “They did not do any of the discussions needed at the ground-level.

“How are you going to build a world-class mining facility in the 21st century if you’re not talking on the ground level to the people involved?”

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