Heather Exner-Pirot is a research adviser to the Indigenous Resource Network and a fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.
Canada has adopted one-sided consultation processes that favour First Nations that oppose resource extraction at the expense of those that support such projects. That was the finding of a judge recently in a rebuke to the federal government for its treatment of the Ermineskin Cree Nation.
Their case makes explicit what many of us have observed over the years: Indigenous people who support resource development do not fall comfortably into mainstream Canada’s idealized version of what Indigenous people should and shouldn’t do, and they are therefore ignored.
This particular claim saw the Ermineskin Cree, one of the four Nations of Maskwacis in western Alberta, contest a designation order that the federal Minister of the Environment, Jonathan Wilkinson, had placed on the Phase II expansion of Vista coal mine in July 2020.
This subjected the mine to a full federal impact assessment — something the Impact Assessment Agency itself recommended against — which had the practical effect of stopping the activity.
Yet the federal government never consulted the Ermineskin, who had negotiated Impact and Benefit Agreements (IBA) with Coalspur Mines, the project proponent, in its consideration of the order.