Dale Swampy is president of the National Coalition of Chiefs and a member of the Samson Cree Nation.
“We have seen in the past 15 years, after the duty to consult was affirmed
by the Supreme Court of Canada, how environmentalist and radical NGOs
have used First Nations’ treaty and constitutional rights as a strategy
to block resource development.
They come into our communities with misinformation, pressure tactics,
and promises of legal support. But too often their interest is, not in assisting First Nations to get better deals, but in appropriating our voices and credibility
for their own self-interested end of blocking all development.”
Last month a new milestone in Canada’s journey to reconciliation was achieved with the introduction of Bill 41 in the B.C. legislature. The bill requires B.C.’s government to bring its laws into line with the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). This legislation will provide another tool for First Nations to ensure they are adequately consulted and engaged in resource development projects and share in their benefits.
I believe the intent of this legislation is noble and I support, in particular, the sentiment expressed in a joint statement by B.C.’s Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, B.C. First Nations leaders and MLAs:
“It is time we recognize and safeguard Indigenous peoples’ human rights, so that we may finally move away from conflict, drawn-out court cases and uncertainty, and move forward with collaboration and respect … we will create more certainty and opportunity for Indigenous peoples, B.C. businesses, communities and families everywhere.”
However, I approach this new legislation with caution. The over-riding goal of all public policy should be to defeat on-reserve poverty. Resource development offers the most practical and achievable path to creating economic development and business and employment opportunities for those living on reserve, especially for communities located in rural and remote regions of Canada.
We have seen in the past 15 years, after the duty to consult was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada, how environmentalist and radical NGOs have used First Nations’ treaty and constitutional rights as a strategy to block resource development.