The potential for conflict between the mineral industry and Aboriginals with unsettled land claims is not going away. A solution will take time, wisdom and considerable understanding on both sides.
I read on April 22 that a “chorus of celebrities” is demanding the release of Robert Lovelace of the Ardoch Lake Algonquin First Nation and the KI Six of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug band. They were sentenced in separate courts to jail time for protesting mineral exploration. Lovelace and his band oppose uranium exploration by FRONTENAC VENTURES near Sharbot Lake in southeast Ontario. The KI band wants PLATINEX to abandon its project at Big Trout Lake in northern Ontario.
Our readers continue to share their views about conflicts between First Nations and industry with us.
“Surely the basic problem is how we can all benefit from the stuff God put into the ground for us to find and use. We obviously need to be sensitive to the views of our aboriginal cousins, but simply blocking everyone from any given deposit cannot be the right way,” wrote one reader. “I see a huge ‘me first’ attitude in many (by no means all, but too many) Canadians of all ethnicities. That’s not a healthy outlook. How about doing unto others as you would have them do unto you?”
And from a reader who reminded us that it was not until the 1930s that women were recognized as people in Canada, these thoughts:
“Yes, the First Nations have para-governmental jurisdiction, but they do not currently have authorization to raise taxes, so mining companies need to approach federal and provincial governments ahead of other interested parties. So long as mining companies follow the UNEP [United Nations Environmental Program] community development guidelines, then the First Nation issues will be treated no less importantly than federal issues.”
If Aboriginals and the mining industry are ever to reach agreement on land use, the first step must be mutual understanding. Toward that end, the FRONTIER CENTRE FOR PUBLIC POLICY in Winnipeg has released a report aimed at ways to improve Aboriginal outcomes. By comparing indigenous people in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States, the author was able to point to conditions in specific societies that allow individuals to prosper. He wants to promote self-reliance and increased access to education, and New Zealand is an excellent example of this approach.
Read the background paper for more specific examples of how indigenous Canadians stack up against their counterparts in other countries. It is available at www.fcpp.org/main/publication_detail.php?PubID=2143.