First Nations must pursue own interests in resource projects – by Doug Cuthand (Saskatoon StarPhoenix – April 30, 2016)

Back in the 1970s and ’80s there was opposition to developing uranium mines
in Northern Saskatchewan. Our people were used as an ally by the opponents,
but in the end the mines were developed. Northern people expressed their
concerns for the environment, but they also saw the value of employment
and business opportunities.

The uranium industry became an economic engine, creating jobs and contract
opportunities for our people. Today there are indigenous companies that
provide camp catering, trucking, security and other spinoff services.

Pipeline building is once again in the news, and the pros and the cons are lining up. Our people once again are somewhere in the middle, seen either as an ally or an impediment.

First Nations have been left out of resource development instead of being treated as stakeholders. The same people who ignore our potential also are the ones to complain about indigenous poverty and suggest that we move away from traditional communities. Meanwhile, the environmentalists and anti-developers co-opt our people as allies in order to justify their cause.

Before I get to far along I must disclose that I’m a Treaty Land Entitlement trustee for my band and serve on the economic board that’s assembling a land base that includes oil and gas potential, as well as other economic development. I am also in favour of pipelines because they are far safer than rail transport, which has seen some horrific accidents involving oil transportation.

The issue is not black and white. There are some highly dangerous projects that could cause untold environmental damage, and these should be avoided. The Northern Gateway pipeline across British Columbia to Kitimat is an example.

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