End head-butting over resource projects – by Carol Goar (Toronto Star – November 16, 2015)

The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

A think-tank has released a timely plan to make First Nations full partners in deciding how — and whether — to exploit non-renewable resources. One of the litmus tests of Justin Trudeau’s pledge to renew Canada’s relationship with First Nations will be his handling of resource development.

The current flashpoints are pipelines and petroleum. But the issue is bigger than that. It encompasses minerals, forestry, commercial fishing, electricity generation and waste management. These industries account for 20 per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product. They all impinge on the rights, territories and way of life of life of aboriginal communities.

The only tool the federal government now has to reconcile these competing interests is a 40-year-old environmental assessment process, which is not meant for this. It was designed to identify and mitigate potential sources of pollution.

Over the last decade — in the absence of other forums — it has ballooned into a grievance-laden catch-all that sidelines First Nations, drags on for years, and satisfies no one. It pits indigenous communities against corporate lobbyists, scientists, economists and prominent environmentalists who aren’t always on their side.

Aboriginal leaders may not hear about a project until it’s too late to change its design or location. They often lack the technical knowledge to make their case effectively. In frustration, they resort to roadblocks, protests, threats and litigation.

For the rest of this column, click here: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2015/11/16/end-head-butting-over-resource-projects-goar.html

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