Sunday, January 29, 2012

Reservations brighter future?

“PM’s economic message divides the generations.”

So read the headline published in the GLOBE AND MAIL dated January 25, 2012 and written by a Bill Curry and Gloria Galloway.

“Houston, we have a problem.” Apollo 13 Astronaut Commander, James Lovell, uttered those now famous words while on a lunar mission in 1970. We all know “that problem” was solved after Lovell and his comrades returned to earth safely.

Still, long before then, the Canadian government figured they too had a problem. In fact, what the late Dr. Duncan Campbell Scott, then head of the Department of Indian Affairs, uttered in 1920 was the infamous statement, “I want to get rid of the Indian problem.”

Seems though, after all that time; there still is a problem.  The context of Dr. Scott’s infamous statement was the need to address Canada’s Indigenous occupancy of land across the country. Thus, the establishment of and the failed residential school system as Canada’s Aboriginal people refused the idea of a homogeneous society.  So, what is today’s problem?...and solution?

PM Harper did host a First Nations Summit on January 24, 2012 to perhaps address the problem… the dismal state of first nations affairs and situation across the country and tenuous relationship with Canada.

“Agenda focused on practical improvement sits well with new generation of leaders, but old guard stands firm on land rights. PM sees jobs as key to first nations future.”

Post 1920, division still outlines the relationship with the government and is clear amongst First Nations too.

Until the Indian Act is abolished, one must respect the Treaties with different First Nations and their approach to be treated separately unlike the finality of land claim agreements where communities work together to move forward with certainty on issues such as land rights, harvesting, economy, education, health care and ultimately some financial compensation. Treaties are subjected to interpretation and result in on-going issues of housing, land rights, education, and never ending annual allocation of money…and, some say, unaccountability.

Still, the PM refuses to scrap the Indian Act and instead, “Stephen Harper is pushing ahead with an agenda focused on practical steps to boost the economies of Canada’s reserves, pointing to a promising new generation of native leaders and entrepreneurs as examples of a brighter future.”

Astronaut Commander, James Lovell, did figure out the explosion of two oxygen tanks as the cause of their problem and found steps to address that cause. Stephen Harper and the first nations will need to figure out the cause of the current state of native reserves and their tenuous relationship with each other. I think that is the first “practical step.” Until then, generations will continue to be divided with no brighter future.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Pipeline rules or Aboriginal rules?

“Oil-sands pipeline hits its highest hurdle
Ottawa warns of foreign-financed “radicals” but opposition is led by a business-minded first nation.”

So read the headline published in the GLOBE AND MAIL dated, January 9, 2012 and written by a David Ebner.

“Public vetting of Enbridge’s proposed $6.6-billion Northern Gateway oil-sands pipeline begins Tuesday (Today, January 10, 2012).”

Someone has said, “The mother of all hearings starts today.”

So, is the Gateway pipeline approval a forgone conclusion? Yes, based on the National Energy Board  (NEB) and its history of approving projects, Some say it's a done deal. After all, the NEB’s motto is “In the National Interest.” But, the process, like most projects, will not be without any hurdles. Already, the government is weighing in and some say, are trying to meddle in the process.

Picture from the GLOBE AND MAIL
 “The Conservative government will bring forward new rules to greatly shorten environmental reviews of pipelines and other major projects, arguing that “radical groups” are exploiting the reviews to block proposals vital to Canada’s economic future.” So, what “new rules?” For one, a Timeline.

Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Resources has said, “…a definite timeline would provide certainty to the participants who are sponsoring the project.” Seems, from the government perspective, some say , if a company applies to build a pipeline, that company will “certainly” be approved.

Introducing new rules though does not omit the “highest hurdle”…Aboriginal opposition?

The arguments concerning native land rights and environmental impact promise a regulatory fight that could travel all the way to the Supreme Court. “The struggle to transport the harvest of Alberta’s vast oil sands enters a new arena this week – a village on the rugged British Columbia coast where the hopes of Canada’s biggest pipeline operator will meet a business-savvy first nation with little appetite for black gold.”

Enter the Haisla First Nation. They are doing business as well as any oil company. Still, regarding the construction of the proposed pipeline, Ellis Ross, Haisla chief councillor has said, “We don’t think that’s in the National Interest.”

The Hearings start today and is hosted by the Haisla First Nation. For the NEB, why not start at the highest hurdle…but it doesn’t mean it’s downhill from there.