CAMA Update and November 2012 in Review

The rest of November is reviewed from the perspective of my book: Resource Rulers: Fortune and Folly on Canada’s Road to Resources

Nov 18/20:  The Ring of Fire was again front-and-center at the 20th Canadian Aboriginal Minerals Conference. Noront and Cliffs said all the right things about gaining the elusive ‘social license’ – although the Chiefs have yet to be convinced.


Peter Moonias, Chief of Neskantaga, had the most heartfelt comments that he repeated for emphasis: here’s a précis of his remarks: “I was the chief that said some alarming things in the media. I said that I would lay my life down to stop this project – and I will – and I’m saying that again here. Under the treaty we have a sacred duty to protect the land and the environment – which sustain our people – it’s a duty that I have to discharge as chief under the treaty. There was our old community at the site where the road / bridge proposes to cross the Attawapiskat River – that won’t happen unless the Crown acknowledges that we have joint power sharing under the treaty over how this project moves forward. That means that we have inherent rights to protect the land and environment. This project will not make progress until we see that these treaty rights are giving us the power to direct and safeguard these matters. The Crown has to first accord us joint management (power sharing) under the treaty as a condition of our engagement and approval for taking resources from our land.”


Cornelius Wabasse, Chief of Webequie, backed Chief Moonias as reflected in this précis: “I agree with Chief Moonias that there has to be a prior arrangement between the crown and Matawa recognizing out treaty rights. Taking resources from our land, which has happened for a century now without any consultation or benefit to us, is no longer acceptable. It will not happen as before. While my community stands to benefit from its proximity in the ROF, I too will insist on our treaty rights first and foremost. Jobs, training, employment and revenue sharing are all elements of making this project move forward. This is not the olden days. As chief I have a duty to listen to his community and any future progress is subject to its concurrence. The elders and our youth all have concerns and want the environment and the land to be protected – especially given our proximity in the ROF.”


NRCan Minister Joe Oliver spoke at the conference and profiled the benefits of the Voisey’s Bay experience and in the same breath highlighted the merits of Cliff’s ROF potential; clearly there’s now a publicly voiced political expectation that these two mining theaters share a common flight-plan on Canada’s road to resources.


Ontario’s MNDM / ADM Cindy Blancher-Smith gave an excellent overview of the Phase II Mining Act modernization; just in the nick-of-time, because with these reforms Ontario may have finally turned the corner and started the long climb back to sustainable mining exploration practices.


Nov 21: Deep in Wet’suwet’en territory, northern BC, pipeline right of way surveyors were systematically denied entry at native checkpoints – and in one case their survey gear was confiscated – kudos to the fieldworkers who (in videos on the web) exercised decorum and restraint. For readers of Resource Rulers, this is essentially how the Platinex v. KIFN dispute in nw Ontario originated (profiled in the Ontario chapter).


Nov 22: Halalt First Nation have now been told by the highest court in BC that indeed they had been properly consulted and accommodated respecting the new state-of-art water facility in situ for the District of North Cowichan (Chemainus) on Vancouver Island. This facility had been the subject of repeated litigation and as a result had not yet become operational; all the while intermittent boil water advisories issued. Throughout Halalt cited adjacent aquifer concerns and traditional uses; and remarkably they prevailed in court twice before. While this latest ruling can be considered a native loss; it transpires that the facility will now run at reduced capacity (one well/one pump) and notably only during winter months. Such are the main accommodations that emanated from the extended litigation and consultation process, which at one point saw blockades and stressed relations all round. For Resource Ruler readers – this case was ongoing at print time and thus is not covered in the book – yet it is one of the most powerful manifestations of native resource empowerment in the country. Native rights trump community water enhancement! The sequence of events and key rulings needs to be studied by resource strategists.


Nov 23: Gitga’at First Nation went public with concerns over two separate container ship incidents off of the BC coast: one grounding – one loss of power. The Gitga’at didn’t mention however that two weeks earlier a coastal tanker had run aground near Baker Lake NWT. While none of these incidents resulted in a spill; bad luck does apparently come in threes.


Nov 25: Fortune Minerals trade show booth in San Francisco had unexpected visitors when a banner was unfurled calling it’s Mt. Klappan mine in BC’s sacred headwaters ‘A Risky Investment’. The Tahltan Central Council remain set on protecting the integrity of that major watershed and salmon spawning region.


Nov 26: NunatuKavut (Labrador Metis) went before the Federal Court to challenge Nalcor’s Lower Churchill / Muskrat Falls project citing various legal issues, which project is on their traditional lands. The Innu Nation and Labrador Inuit are already onside. As such, this legal challenge will be a huge test for the ongoing recognition of their rights in the vicinity of this mega-project.


Nov 26: Shell’s lawyers prevailed in the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation’s leave to appeal in the Jackpine panel review’s dismissal of the ACFN’s constitutional challenge. The Alberta Court of Appeal quoted Shell’s lawyer who successfully cast the ACFN’s challenge this way: “stop the consultation, because there hasn’t been enough consultation” (referring to the ongoing panel process that is still engaged in reviewing the project). For Resource Ruler readers, this is now a fairly consistent outcome and native strategists need to let these panels do their job. The court indicated that any potential remedies should instead be launched afterwards.

Read the November mid-report here
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