Since the Supreme Court of Canada released its Tsilhqot’in and Grassy Narrows rulings earlier this month, groups in both British Columbia and Ontario are wasting no time pulling together benefit agreements.
Readers will remember that the Court ruled in favour of the Tsilhqot’in First Nation saying that the Nation holds title to the lands it has historically occupied as a semi-nomadic people. That means anyone wanting to use those lands must first obtain permission from the Tsilhqot’in.
The outcome for the Grassy Narrows band was different. Because its lands were included in Treaty 3, the Court ruled that the federal government has sole authority to take up land covered by treaties for commerical use such as forestry. The ruling forces provinces to respect treaty rights, insisting they obtain the consent of the First Nations for use of their lands or undertake the legal burden of justifying any infringement on rights.
This week from Terrace, BC, came the news the representatives of government, First Nations and industry were gathering to witness the signing of the Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance (RBA) agreement.
“The newly formed Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance is ready, willing and able to engage in revenue sharing discussions and negotiations promised by Premier Christy Clark,” said chairman Dr. Bruce Bidgood. “There is not a moment to lose. We need to start revenue sharing discussions immediately. Northwest BC is already booming.”
Members of the RBA include the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine (RDKS), the city of Terrace, the districts of Kitimat, Stewart and New Hazelton, the village of Hazelton, and all RDKS electoral area directors. At stake are potentially billions of dollars in shared revenue that could benefit the towns and communities of northwest British Columbia. The members can use the funds to provide government services, for stewardship of public assets, for economic and social growth, and for encouraging sustainable resource development.
In the eastern part of the country, the Metis Nation of Ontario has signed a five-year memorandum of understanding with Ontario Power Generation. The document outlines the process for continued consultation in the matter of OPG’s nuclear waste repository in Kincardine, ON. Any potential impacts the project may have on Metis rights, interests and way of life will be addressed together. The first such agreement was signed between the Metis and OPG in 2008.
The exploration and mining sector knows the value of consulting with aboriginal communities. The latest such agreement was signed this week by Mega Precious Metals of Thunder Bay, ON, and the Red Sucker Lake First Nation in the form of a memorandum of understanding. It covers Mega’s development of its Monument Bay gold-tungsten project 340 km southeast of Thompson, MB.
The Red Sucker Lake community is only 52 km from Monument Bay. The chief and council said in a release, “We … realize that this is an important date in moving forward in good faith, meaning that we remain and maintain an understanding so that all parties will prosper. Through signing the MOU we can come to a mutual understanding with our environmental concerns and voicing our communities concerns. This is only the beginning and we believe that all parties will continue to have open dialogue so we can all benefit and move forward.”
So far the recent Supreme Court of Canada rulings are having a positive effect on all stakeholders in potential development. Let us hope this marks a positive step toward a better future for all.