Corporate & Native Resource Update: December 2012
December 2012 reviewed from the perspective of Resource Rulers: Fortune and Folly on Canada’s Road to Resources picking up after the Canadian Aboriginal Minerals Association (CAMA Conference) in Toronto.
Nov 19: NRCan Minister Joe Oliver gave the opening address at CAMA saying: “new projects represent a total investment of more than $650 billion and offer the potential for significant benefits to Aboriginal communities”. The author notes that this number has steadily ballooned – up from $450 billion – all the while key resource projects have ‘flamed out’ as a result of the rise of native empowerment. Kemess North / Prosperity Lake / Morrison Mine – the last three mines proposed in British Columbia – all succumbed to serious missteps on the native relationship.
Nov 27: NALCOR wins a permanent injunction against Nunatukavut halting protests at the Muskrat Falls construction site (main gates). However the protests may continue at a nearby designated ‘safety zone’ which Nalcor is now obliged to maintain ‘including providing snow clearing’. Furthermore, Nalcor was singled-out by the court for its unhelpful attitude:  “The furtherance of meaningful consultation is not assisted by the attitude of Nalcor (or, at least, that of its counsel).” marking another example of natives losing in court yet not coming away empty-handed in the native empowerment department.
Nov 28: Muskrat Falls Hydro-Power Project draws some unexpected opposition from the Nunatsiavut Government over the lack of crown consultation having to do with the mitigation of downstream impacts. President Sarah Leo stated that: “the economics of the project are of secondary importance” compared to protection of the Lake Melville (Rigolet) watershed. The crown was once again put on notice two weeks later – with stronger wording employed.
Dec 03: ‘Outspoken’ at Lake Abitibi: Solid Gold Resources CEO made headlines as in “Darryl Stretch’s downfall” (Resource Clips / Greg Klein). Elsewhere, I profile the statements from both sides that comprise the campaign to influence the court of public opinion respecting its Legacy Project. Now the ex-CEO is threatening to sue Chief David Babin and Grand Chief (NAN) Harvey Yesno for allegedly defamatory remarks. (Note that a similar lawsuit underscored the Morrison Mine’s ‘flame-out’)
Dec 04: AFN Chiefs decamp for Parliament Hill abruptly leaving their Special General Assembly (Gatineau) in mid-meeting by demanding an audience with Parliament; whereupon they were met with locked doors and a security detail. Turned away, one chief exclaimed: ‘Wait till you try accessing our lands next time!’
Dec 11: Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence commences her hunger strike.
Readers should track-back to earlier blogs documenting: 1) McGuinty government’s budgetary royalty grab at the expense of both DeBeers and this community; 2) and Chief Spence’s legal win over the imposition of a third-party overseer by Ottawa. The obvious fact that this poverty stricken community sits on the doorstep of De Beer’s Victor diamond mine does not portend well for developing the Ring of Fire.
Dec 13: Native Legal Win # 171 – Kapyong Barracks (see case profile). The author, a former Treaty Entitlement Negotiator in Treaty 1, views this ruling as yet another step towards natives in all probability acquiring a significant parcel of prime real estate (on a willing buyer / willing seller basis) in downtown Winnipeg. Twice now, the Federal Court has thwarted the crown’s (surplus/strategic) land disposition process on account of inadequate consultation with local First Nations.
Dec 20: Native Legal Win # 172 – Supreme Court of Canada’s refusal to consider non-native fishers’ challenge respecting the federal Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy; which program affords native fishers access to salmon runs ahead of non-native fishers. While this may appear to be a double standard in fairness terms over the allocation of scarce resources, it’s clear that the highest court prioritizes aboriginal fishing rights (so delimited). This is now a legal fact of life re the west coast fishery.
Dec 22: “Idle No More” protest on Parliament Hill attracts over a 1000 people and spawns a series of regional protests across the country. Chief Spence issues a statement that highlighted natural resources as the key discussion point saying that: “Land and natural resources continue to be reaped by the federal and provincial governments through taxation of corporate resource companies with little compensation to First Nations for use of our traditional territories.”
Dec 27: Native Legal Win # 173 – Ross River Dena v. Yukon – the Court of Appeal put Yukon and the mining industry on notice that it’s no longer business as usual if natives have not been properly consulted (even) at the claim staking stage:
 The potential impact of mining claims on Aboriginal title and rights is such that mere notice cannot suffice as the sole mechanism of consultation. A more elaborate system must be engrafted onto the regime set out in the Quartz Mining Act. In particular, the regime must allow for an appropriate level of consultation before Aboriginal claims are adversely affected.
 b) The Government of Yukon has a duty to notify and, where appropriate, consult with and accommodate the plaintiff before allowing any mining exploration activities to take place within the Ross River Area, to the extent that those activities may prejudicially affect Aboriginal rights claimed by the plaintiff.
Dec 28: Canadians are witnessing the apex of native empowerment: massive media coverage describing: Sarnia rail blockade (spur line to chemical valley); Ring of Fire’s increasingly tenuous native support; oilsands/pipeline reputational issues, various native regional protests, Chief Spence’s hunger strike now into its 3rd week.
Yet no mention is made of their remarkable native legal winning streak in any of the ‘Idle No More’ media coverage. Rather, if that legal reality were embraced, natives would be seen as winners on the road to resources and not as Indian Act supplicants.
This is where constructive dialogue and concrete progress can quickly be made. It’s time to see Natives as Resource Rulers.