Sunday, July 22, 2012

To Treaty or not to Treaty?

“Business warned to respect treaty rights.
Newly re-elected assembly chief says he wont’ rule out delaying projects like Northern Gateway pipeline if conversation lags.”

So read the headline published in the GLOBE AND MAIL dated July 20, 2012 and written by a Tamara Baluia.

Seems the re-elected Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Chief; Shawn Atleo is already flexing his muscles regarding treaty rights. But is he barking up the wrong tree? Especially, when he has been accused by a number of chiefs of being too cozy with the government during his first term.

Still, he has warned business and, “he didn’t rule out delaying key projects like the (Enbridge) Northern Gateway pipeline.”

With his focus on businesses and resource development and the need to respect treaty rights, perhaps he may be still too cozy with the government? After all, based on experience and the last I heard and according to the courts, it is the Crown that has the duty to consult and to respect aboriginal and Treaty rights, which are recognized and affirmed in the Constitution Act, Section 35.

So, where is the Crown?

The very target Atleo is after is also wondering. “Canadian business leaders, in a report by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives released ahead of the AFN’s assembly, called for politicians to bring aboriginal communities more fully on board in energy development. From a corporate perspective, being “on board” though is not about treaty rights.

Tell that to a Daniel Veniez, an entrepreneur who has worked for first nations in northern BC and a former Liberal Party candidate. He has said, “ in order to unlock the full economic potential, first nations and Ottawa will have to clear the underbrush first…the fundamental issue of treaty rights,” he said. “ I don’ think you’ll see any real movement until this is sorted out first.”

So, where is the Crown?

“Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan said the government will work with communities to “create the conditions for Canada’s first nations to achieve the prosperity they see, benefiting not just them but all Canadians. Building on the progress we have made together will require us to have the courage to embrace change…and ask tough questions.”

As we all know and unlike Aboriginal rights, Treaty rights are spelled out clearly within all the respective treaties. Treaty rights are not such a tough question…tell that to Atleo. Perhaps,  he's still too cozy?