Issue link: http://read.dmtmag.com/i/221076
Energy ("Formidable Foes or Partners With Potential?" continued from page 43) mechanism to address the issues must be introduced leading to partnerships that will strengthen the overall Canadian economy. "We are not seeking token consultation or passive participation. We are calling for recognition leading to the sharing of power and responsibility," said Atleo. It just makes good economic and moral sense to recognize Native rights up front, Atleo stated, cautioning that, depending on unique interests and priorities, different First Nations won't always take the same path. Some Native bands in the province, such as the Haisla, are already benefiting as a partner and stakeholder in a number of projects including Pacific Trail Pipeline and Kitimat Liquified Natural Gas. That's because the provincial government and industry representatives in these cases "didn't wait for the courts to instruct them to start dealing with First Nations," Atleo said. "We will not be forced between false choices of our rights or economic development, the environment or jobs, our cultures or technology," he added. "We must find new ways to engage in these discussions with a holistic view that brings together all of our collective and shared interests." Power of Education Along with a legal impetus for action, there's an economic and moral imperative as well, the chief maintains: "We are all too familiar with the sobering and staggering statistics surrounding First Nations poverty." Canada is facing a looming shortage of skilled workers while the Native population is the youngest and fastest growing in the country, with more than 30,000 postsecondary graduates. Putting two and two together, by investing in that population through education, skills training and employment opportunities, "we can take significant strides securing Canada's competitiveness and productivity," said Atleo. "This is not just development of human capital for a market economy but the creation of actors for a more civil society." Citing the Centre for the Study of Living Standards, Atleo said that if First Nations education and employment levels can be raised to the Canadian average, "we'll add $400 billion to the economy over the coming years and reduce social costs by $115 billion." "If education was once used as a weapon to sever our peoples from their cultures, it can now be forged into a key that unlocks our full potential." Like other Native leaders, Atleo was hoping to hear some solid pledges to advance the aboriginal agenda in the federal government Throne Speech, delivered in 44 | www.cedmag.com | Construction Equipment Distribution | December 2013 On March 19, the Honourable Joe Oliver (right), Canada's Minister of Natural Resources, announced the appointment of Douglas Eyford as the Government of Canada's Special Federal Representative on West Coast Energy Infrastructure. Eyford will engage with aboriginal communities in British Columbia and Alberta that could benefit from future energy infrastructure development. October, about its projected policies and proposals. They were sorely disappointed. Other than a vague commitment to provide job training for those traditionally underrepresented in the work force such as "people with disabilities, youth and aboriginal Canadians," there was little for the leaders to sink their teeth into. For example, said Chief Betty Ann Lavallee of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples representing Natives living off-reserve, where are the "targeted programs" to benefit the fastest growing demographic in Canada, aboriginal youth? The time has come, Atleo said, for governments and multinational companies to recognize that, rather than an "Indian problem," there's an opportunity at hand to realize the collective potential of First Nations. He cited the common themes in more than 40 Supreme Court decisions, 250 years of struggle since the Royal Proclamation (recognizing aboriginal rights in Canada), the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. "I'd like to believe that, at this current moment in time, there's only a continuation of a long misunderstanding of truths and rights – and not willful ignorance." TOM VAN DUSEN JR. has written for daily and weekly newspapers in Canada for more than 40 years. A freelancer based near Ottawa, Ont., his specialties include the general economy, politics, agriculture and the environment. He can be reached at 613-445-3407, email@example.com.