Ontario Aboriginal relations branch reaching out to industry – by Staff (Northern Ontario Business – June 6, 2016)


The Aboriginal Relations Branch of the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines is reaching out to the mining sector to share its evolving approach to Aboriginal affairs and its insight into conducting business with First Nations and Métis communities.

Bernie Hughes, director of the Aboriginal Relations Branch, and Teri McDonald, land claims specialist and team lead, have been criss-crossing the province delivering their “Aboriginal affairs 101” talk to industry groups like the Sudbury Prospector and Developers Association.

Stops so far have included Toronto, Sault Ste. Marie, Timmins, Sudbury, Kirkland Lake and Tweed (about an hour northeast of Peterborough). As more jurisprudence and provincial and Supreme Court laws are established around treaty rights, consultation, and Aboriginal title, the area of Aboriginal relations in mineral exploration and development is rapidly evolving, Hughes said.

“We’re in a time right now where things are changing,” said Hughes, and all parties are learning how to navigate this new landscape.

Industry feels a lack of certainty in getting access to the land, First Nation and Métis communities are trying to improve their socioeconomic status, and governments are trying to navigate historic treaties and Aboriginal treaty rights, he noted.

“But all of us are still at an early stage of this shifting environment,” Hughes said, “and I think that we’re already at a point where we’re understanding what we need to do with respect to focusing on and improving the socioeconomic status of First Nations and Métis.”

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