Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"Talk to the people."

“Talk to the people.”

So read the headline in the Comment section in the GLOBE AND MAIL published August 11, 2010.

As one who has experience on the consultation issue with oil and gas and electrical companies as well as with the National Energy Board (NEB), there is a saying, “If you don’t hear the people, you should fear the people.”

Regulatory organizations like the NEB and even the Government of Alberta have consultation guidelines when it comes to land and resource development that require companies to submit a report on consultations with the general public and Aboriginal people. Apparently, consultations with the public can affect resource and/or land development projects. The NEB, for once in its history, said no a number of years ago to the proposed Sumas electrical project in southern British Columbia: of course, much to the dismay of the proponent.

In this case in the Arctic, a court ruling called for a halt on a proposed seismic testing project in the Lancaster Sound in Nunavut.  Apparently, the Canadian government says the proposed project “will add to the understanding of the geology of the North.” “Geology” likely meaning oil and gas reserves. Kudos to the court ruling though that took into account the consultation and words from the Inuit, “the research project it argued would harm the marine life - narwhal, beluga whales, seals, polar bears and walruses on which traditional life and culture depend in five Arctic communities.” Furthermore, the potential loss of all this marine life as Madam Judge Sue Cooper says, “that the irreparable loss would outweigh the costs to the country of delaying the project. “The loss extends not just to the loss of a food source, but to a loss of culture.” She wrote. “No amount of money can compensate for such a loss.”

“Talking to the people” too should have been a guiding principle when the federal government established the former residential school system. Now, they’re having to compensate all Aboriginal people affected by the legacy of physical and sexual abuses experienced. Yes, no amount of money can compensate for my loss of language and culture.

Let’s hope talking to the people will continue to be a guiding principle as this practise can and should affect proposed development projects.