December 2013

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Page 41 of 75

Formidable Foes or Partners With Potential? First Nations Will Be Reckoned With in Canada's Energy Development Debate Advancing energy projects means winning over and engaging the country's fastest-growing population. BY TOM VAN DUSEN JR. The key ingredient in unleashing billions of dollars of resource development and countless opportunities for the heavy equipment sector along Canada's West Coast isn't financing, it isn't corporate partnerships or government investment. No, the key but complex ingredient is working out satisfactory cooperative agreements with long-established First Nations communities in the path of the proposed pipelines, ports, refineries and shipping terminals. The Prime Minister of Canada, an Albertan, knows that. That's why he assigned a special envoy, Vancouver lawyer Doug Eyford, the task of working out understandings with First Nations in developing energy corridors across British Columbia. As CED went to press in November, Eyford was due to deliver a fact-finding report to the PM outlining the many hurdles on the file, from overlapping land claims to a history of litigation. Successive court decisions, including more than 40 from the Supreme Court of Canada, have upheld the Native right to have input in activities that may impact their lands. According to Shawn Atleo, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Native land rights negotiators have chalked up 170 legal victories, "what some call the biggest winning streak in Canadian legal history," he said. Now the government is becoming concerned that energy development opportunities could be lost if settlements with aboriginal leaders can't be struck promptly. Enter Eyford as special envoy. Like Eyford, Atleo doesn't want 40 | www.cedmag.com | Construction Equipment Distribution | December 2013 to go back to the courts, which the chief describes as "costly, adversarial and generally do nothing to further positive, collaborative relationships." "First Nations consume too much of our energy fighting legal battles and languishing in protracted negotiations – a situation highly characteristic of a lack of trust." It's much more productive, the chief maintains, to recognize Native rights in energy projects from the get-go: "This is about economic development on our terms. But those terms can be good for everyone – and certainly good for business." The Natives fully understand the powerful position they hold in this latest round of negotiations over sharing Canada's natural resources. They won't be robbed again. (continued on page 42)

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