Monday, November 14, 2011

Aboriginal Title?...Easy Answer.

Certainty still a question in land rights and resource development.
Several issues make agreement between first nations and business interests difficult.

So read the headline published in the VANCOUVER SUN, November 12, 2011 and written by a Derrick Penner.

Sub-headlines to the article included, “Treaty gap, New projects, Finding opportunities, Finding a deal.”

Until there are land claim agreements south of 60 like north of 60 where land claim agreements abound, there will always be uncertainty in land rights and resource development including in British Columbia. That is the nature of the situation. You could say it’s a lawyer’s field of paradise where some have started and inevitably retired only to be replaced by up-and-comers.

Anyway, there is no “Treaty gap” north of 60. For example, we, the Inuvialuit (Inuit) of the Western Arctic were a part of the proposed area of Treaty 11. Thanks to our Elders, they figured a “treaty” between us and the government was not a good idea. Thanks to their foresight and patience, our land claim agreement known as the 1984 Inuvialuit Final Agreement outlines certainty in Aboriginal title, i.e. land selection, surface and sub-surface rights, wildlife management, socio-economic agreements, health care issues, consultation, etc, all allowing an aura of certainty.

South of 60?…”companies are still looking for clarity around what areas of the (BC) province are absolutely open, or absolutely closed…” Yes, Aboriginal title is still a question.

Regarding “New projects,” north of 60; no problem. One voice, the people; land claim agreements have sent the lawyers home.
“However, from the (BC) province’s perspective, it is difficult to create any type of template for consultation and accommodation of first nations’ interests, according to Mary Polak, Minister of (BC) Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, because those interests vary so widely between first nations.” Mary goes on to say, “Treaties would be the most comprehensive and final way to addressing recognition.” History has shown though, treaties have been too vague and have resulted in uncertainty. Comprehensive land claim agreements north of 60 have created a lot of certainty. Many new projects there have started or pending and will last for many years to come.

Regarding “Finding opportunities” north of 60; ... no problem. Finding opportunities with oil and gas and the mining sectors abound with the proposed Mackenzie Gas Project and the already established diamond mining projects, let alone the eco-tourism sector that offer once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for tourists; i.e, northern lights, fishing, expeditions, and big-game hunting.

Mary Polak goes on to say, “Can we find something that meets the requirements and desires of all first nations across the province and (non-aboriginal) communities and business interests across the province? I’m not sure.” I guess one should point Mary north of 60 where finding opportunities with land claim agreements have added a lot of certainty.

Regarding “Finding a deal” north of 60, you guessed it, no problem. However, regarding south of 60, lawyers like Keith Bergner has said, “The duty is to consult, not a duty to agree.” Treaties demand consultation while land claim agreements demand an agreement with consultation…that is certainty. Unity and land claim agreements have done a lot for positive consensus of aboriginal groups in “finding a deal” including the Mackenzie Gas Project.

Perhaps, the above noted headline should read, “Certainty will always be a question in land rights and resource development…south of 60”