Indigenous panelists share perspectives on legacy issues, relationship building
In arguing for Indigenous consultation prior to the start of mining development, Lorraine Rekmans looks to her home community as a cautionary tale. Serpent River First Nation was “left holding the bag” in the 1990s when tailings ponds from uranium mines in nearby Elliot Lake failed, spilling into the watershed that serves the area, she said.
The mines were decommissioned before current standards and regulations came into place, and mining companies were largely absolved of responsibility, decamping for the newest uranium camp in Saskatchewan.
“Fifty years ago, there was a mining company here — it’s gone,” said Rekmans, an environmental and social justice advocate and a member of the Serpent River First Nation. “That will be a flash in the pan in history. The stability, the economic surety of a corporation, how long a corporation lives: they do not live as long as the memories of the people who live in the same place forever.”
It’s now a duty of the Crown to consult with Indigenous communities before approving projects. But Rekmans argues that it’s also good business for mining companies to include the Indigenous perspective from the start.
“We plan for seven generations; we want to protect ecological integrity,” she said. “When people are looking for partners, that’s a pretty good partner to have, if you have an economist, if you have an economic analyst, a geologist, maybe a protector of mother earth on the team.”
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