Queen’s Park: First Nations have iron grip on Ontario’s economy

Reprinted from lawtimesnews.com, August 5, 2013

Queen’s Park by Ian Harvey

Moving forward, there will be no oil flowing in a pipeline nor will there be any copper, gold, nickel, uranium or chromite pulled from the earth unless a First Nation has approved and is getting its cut.

It’s the result of years of neglect coming to fruition, says Bill Gallagher, a Waterloo, Ont.-area lawyer whose book, Resource Rulers: Fortune and Folly on Canada’s Road to Resources, is turning heads.

“Natives have amassed an unprecedented legal winning streak in the last decade, 185 wins almost in a row, across the resources sector,” says Gallagher, who spent 30 years negotiating deals in the resource sector, including at Voisey’s Bay, N.L., where he sees parallels with Ontario’s Ring of Fire mines. “Ontario is behind in dealing with this.”

The province is also the target of a $100-million lawsuit brought by Solid Gold Resources Corp. this year.

The northern gold-mining explorer staked a claim in 2007, but before exploratory drilling, it was advised by the province, following direction in Haida Nation v. British Columbia (Minister of Forests), to consult with the local Wahgoshig First Nation.

Solid Gold’s former president, Darryl Stretch, pushed back. Absent legislation, he argued, it was the Crown’s duty to consult.

When drilling started, the Wahgoshig First Nation secured an injunction that was overturned on appeal.

However, before the new case could be heard, the government changed the Mining Act, effective April 1, to require companies to file a detailed activities plan and consult with First Nations before they get a permit to drill, and thereby formally offloaded the Crown’s obligation to consult.

The changes rendered the Solid Gold case moot and Stretch was ousted from his position even though, as a major shareholder, he’s now suing the province for damages.

“It was a fiasco from the beginning,” says Stretch, noting the appeal judge agreed the Crown had the duty to consult prior to the rule changes.

“They threw me under the bus. Certainty of title and access is everything to our industry. It’s every man for himself against 133 hostile third-party governments. Soon, there will be no mining and 300,000 jobs are at risk.”

Ontario has more than 600 active exploration projects, most of them operating hand to mouth to fund exploration. For many, the new rules mean too much time lost and too much in extra costs and some junior exploration companies have already pulled out of Ontario as investment dries up because of uncertainty.

It’s bad news because mining generates about $10 billion a year and drives exports, construction, transportation, and other sectors.

Ontario needs mining and front and centre now is the Ring of Fire project where up to $120 billion in metals, especially chromite, await.

When former premier Dalton McGuinty unveiled the plan to mine chromite and other metals, he boldly proclaimed operations would begin in five years. How wrong he was.

Gallagher says such ignorance is rampant and Ontario has been asleep at the switch for too long, although the Mining Act changes are a step in the right direction.

“There’s a huge business case to strike a new deal with natives and a national revenue-sharing scheme,” he says.

“Natives are demanding new fiscal and resource relationships with Canada and it’s in Canada’s fiscal interests to see that they get it.”

That’s the issue, counters Stretch, because one state is effectively putting the management of resources into the hands of another state.

“Investors don’t like uncertainty” and will be wary that a deal today may change at the next stage when the stakes get higher, he says.

More worrying for the future of the industry, he says, is that many First Nations will oppose mining outright and thereby deny Ontario the access to resource revenues it desperately needs.

Gallagher and Stretch don’t agree on many things but they both concede it’s a perilous situation.
“The potential economic and fiscal impacts make this the biggest under-reported business story of the decade,” says Gallagher.

“Our relationship with natives is our national blind spot. We’re in denial. Long overdue solutions are now pressing economic priorities. The highest order of political will must be brought to bear.”

Natives, he says, see themselves as resource gatekeepers and, as such, prospective developers should first seek social licence with those communities before drawing regulatory permits.

The questions remain, however: Will some First Nations use their authority redress past wrongs by holding the province hostage? Will yet others stall growth because they’re fundamentally opposed to any kind of development?

And how will voters react when they learn they’re not in the driver’s seat?

Ian Harvey has been a journalist for 35 years writing about a diverse range of issues including legal and political affairs. His e-mail address is ianharvey@rogers.com.

For more, see “Legacy of Haida Nation decision decried” and “Ontario’s economic future out of its hands as Ring of Fire languishes.”

First Nations chiefs contemplate ‘breach of treaty’ declarations, indefinite economic disruptions

(reposted from APTN news)
First Nations leaders have discussed plans to launch country-wide economic disruptions by the middle of January if Prime Minister Stephen Harper doesn’t agree to hunger-striking Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence’s demand for a treaty meeting, APTN National News has learned.

During three days of meetings and teleconferences, chiefs from across the country discussed a plan setting Jan. 16 as the day to launch a campaign of indefinite economic disruptions, including railway and highway blockades, according to two chiefs who were involved in the talks who requested anonymity.

“The people are restless, they are saying enough is enough,” said one chief, who was involved in the discussions. “Economic impacts are imminent if there is no response.”

Chiefs were still finalizing details of their plans Monday evening and it remained unclear to what extent their discussed options would translate into the official position.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo is expected to write Harper a letter outlining the chiefs’ position.

Spence launched her hunger strike on Dec. 11 to force a meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Governor General David Johnston and First Nations leaders to discuss the state of the treaties. Spence said in a statement issued Monday that the aim of the meeting was to “re-establish” the treaty relationship and finally put First Nations people in their “rightful place back here in our homelands that we all call Canada.”

The plan of action comes as the Idle No More movement continues to sweep across the country through round dances, rallies along with highway and rail blockades.

The Tyendinaga Mohawks briefly blockaded a main CN rail line between Toronto and Montreal Sunday, stranding about 2,000 Via Rail passengers. The Mi’kmaq from the Listuguj First Nation, Que., continue to hold a rail blockade on a CN line along with members of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation who have shut a CN line in Sarnia, Ont. In British Columbia, the Seton Lake Indian Band ended a rail blockade on Sunday.

How the chiefs’ action plan will mesh with the Idle No More movement remains to be seen. Idle No More organizers issued a statement Monday that distanced the movement from the chiefs.

“The chiefs have called for action and anyone who chooses can join with them, however, this is not part of the Idle No More movement as the vision of this grassroots movement does not coincide with the visions of the leadership,” said the statement, posted on the Idle No More Facebook page. “While we appreciate the individual support we have received from chiefs and councillors, we have been given a clear mandate by the grassroots to work outside the systems of government and that is what we will continue to do.”

One of the chiefs involved in action plan discussion said the leadership wanted to be sensitive to the grassroots-driven movement and make clear that their plans are being developed in support and as a response to Idle No More.

“Chiefs are standing firm in support of Idle No More and grassroots citizens,” said the chief. “We now need to unify.”

The meetings and teleconferences included between 50 to 60 chiefs from British Columbia to the Maritimes, according to the sources.

During the discussions, some First Nations leaders suggested individual communities and treaty regions issue “breach of treaty” declarations beginning Jan. 1 and leading up to Jan. 16. Aside from blockades, chiefs discussed stepping up rallies at MP’s offices, continuing letter campaigns and launching Twitter bombs.

“All we are doing is reasserting our own sovereign right and inherent right within this treaty,” said a second chief, who was also involved in the discussions. “The time has come that they need to see we are a sovereign entity, we have and always will be because of the relationship of treaty that was entered into by the Crown and numerous nations.”

There are also plans to hold ceremonies and vigils in Ottawa between Jan. 10 and 13 in support of Spence, who entered into day 21 of her hunger strike on New Year’s Eve.

“Those are going to be in response, either to a response from the prime minister, or to prepare for a potential and imminent impact on Canada’s economy as a result,” said one of the chiefs.

The chief, however, stressed that the leadership is taking their direction from grassroots citizens who are tired of the state of things.

“Our people are growing frustrated, they are tired of the impoverished conditions and mining companies coming to our treaty territories to take what is left,” said the chief. “What we are now seeing is our grassroots citizens are saying enough is enough.”
link

Queen’s Park: First Nations have iron grip on Ontario’s economy

Reprinted from lawtimesnews.com, August 5, 2013

Queen’s Park by Ian Harvey

Moving forward, there will be no oil flowing in a pipeline nor will there be any copper, gold, nickel, uranium or chromite pulled from the earth unless a First Nation has approved and is getting its cut.

It’s the result of years of neglect coming to fruition, says Bill Gallagher, a Waterloo, Ont.-area lawyer whose book, Resource Rulers: Fortune and Folly on Canada’s Road to Resources, is turning heads.

“Natives have amassed an unprecedented legal winning streak in the last decade, 185 wins almost in a row, across the resources sector,” says Gallagher, who spent 30 years negotiating deals in the resource sector, including at Voisey’s Bay, N.L., where he sees parallels with Ontario’s Ring of Fire mines. “Ontario is behind in dealing with this.”

The province is also the target of a $100-million lawsuit brought by Solid Gold Resources Corp. this year.

The northern gold-mining explorer staked a claim in 2007, but before exploratory drilling, it was advised by the province, following direction in Haida Nation v. British Columbia (Minister of Forests), to consult with the local Wahgoshig First Nation.

Solid Gold’s former president, Darryl Stretch, pushed back. Absent legislation, he argued, it was the Crown’s duty to consult.

When drilling started, the Wahgoshig First Nation secured an injunction that was overturned on appeal.

However, before the new case could be heard, the government changed the Mining Act, effective April 1, to require companies to file a detailed activities plan and consult with First Nations before they get a permit to drill, and thereby formally offloaded the Crown’s obligation to consult.

The changes rendered the Solid Gold case moot and Stretch was ousted from his position even though, as a major shareholder, he’s now suing the province for damages.

“It was a fiasco from the beginning,” says Stretch, noting the appeal judge agreed the Crown had the duty to consult prior to the rule changes.

“They threw me under the bus. Certainty of title and access is everything to our industry. It’s every man for himself against 133 hostile third-party governments. Soon, there will be no mining and 300,000 jobs are at risk.”

Ontario has more than 600 active exploration projects, most of them operating hand to mouth to fund exploration. For many, the new rules mean too much time lost and too much in extra costs and some junior exploration companies have already pulled out of Ontario as investment dries up because of uncertainty.

It’s bad news because mining generates about $10 billion a year and drives exports, construction, transportation, and other sectors.

Ontario needs mining and front and centre now is the Ring of Fire project where up to $120 billion in metals, especially chromite, await.

When former premier Dalton McGuinty unveiled the plan to mine chromite and other metals, he boldly proclaimed operations would begin in five years. How wrong he was.

Gallagher says such ignorance is rampant and Ontario has been asleep at the switch for too long, although the Mining Act changes are a step in the right direction.

“There’s a huge business case to strike a new deal with natives and a national revenue-sharing scheme,” he says.

“Natives are demanding new fiscal and resource relationships with Canada and it’s in Canada’s fiscal interests to see that they get it.”

That’s the issue, counters Stretch, because one state is effectively putting the management of resources into the hands of another state.

“Investors don’t like uncertainty” and will be wary that a deal today may change at the next stage when the stakes get higher, he says.

More worrying for the future of the industry, he says, is that many First Nations will oppose mining outright and thereby deny Ontario the access to resource revenues it desperately needs.

Gallagher and Stretch don’t agree on many things but they both concede it’s a perilous situation.
“The potential economic and fiscal impacts make this the biggest under-reported business story of the decade,” says Gallagher.

“Our relationship with natives is our national blind spot. We’re in denial. Long overdue solutions are now pressing economic priorities. The highest order of political will must be brought to bear.”

Natives, he says, see themselves as resource gatekeepers and, as such, prospective developers should first seek social licence with those communities before drawing regulatory permits.

The questions remain, however: Will some First Nations use their authority redress past wrongs by holding the province hostage? Will yet others stall growth because they’re fundamentally opposed to any kind of development?

And how will voters react when they learn they’re not in the driver’s seat?

Ian Harvey has been a journalist for 35 years writing about a diverse range of issues including legal and political affairs. His e-mail address is ianharvey@rogers.com.

For more, see “Legacy of Haida Nation decision decried” and “Ontario’s economic future out of its hands as Ring of Fire languishes.”