First Nations must be partners in resource development – by Doug Cuthand (Saskatoon StarPhoenix – February 6, 2016)

Under new rules for development of energy projects First Nations must be involved in the discussions on a nation-to-nation basis. The Supreme Court also has mandated that governments have a duty to consult with First Nations on resource projects within traditional aboriginal territory.

Business fears this will constitute a veto, and that First Nations will doom future resource development. We get the same knee-jerk reaction from the business community and right-wing commentators each time our jurisdiction or treaty and aboriginal rights are recognized.

Currently, the federal or provincial governments can deny any environmentally risky resource project, in effect giving them a veto. What’s wrong with allowing First Nations governments the same right?

The problem is that business sees First Nations as an impediment to progress, and thinks they will say no if they have the opportunity. As things stand, business is partially correct. First Nations across Canada have reviewed energy and resource projects and found them wanting in revenue sharing, employment and business opportunities.

The history of First Nations involvement in resource development has seen our people pulled between the business community and environmentalists. This has not been to our benefit, and it doesn’t advance our agenda. Both sides automatically assume their position is what’s best for us. However, First Nations have a two-pronged agenda.

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