First Nations have veto on Crown land projects

Reposted from The Sudbury Star

Re: “Tories, Liberals clash over Ring of Fire” — Jan. 28.

The article, just as the arguing politicians did, ignores the First Nations elephant in the room.

Recent high court decisions, citing their right to be “consulted and accommodated,” have given First Nation bands in Canada a virtual veto over whether, and on what terms, any new project on Crown lands in their neighbourhood goes ahead.

These decisions, while representing a huge legal and economic windfall for First Nation bands, also represent a very harmful diminution of legitimate and necessary (necessary for rational economic development and for the welfare of all Canadians, regardless of race) Crown sovereignty.

Instead of there being two founts of legal sovereignty in Canada, as was traditionally the case since Confederation — the provincial Crowns and the federal Crown — in the area of economic development on Crown lands, we now have three — the third being First Nations bands.

This was basically confirmed by former Ontario cabinet minister George Smitherman, now a paid consultant to Greenstone, one of the contenders for the chromite processing facility for Cliff Natural Resources’ Black Thor deposit, and more importantly, the Matawa Tribal Council, when he recently said that “First Nations will have the ultimate say on how the Ring of Fire mineral developments will unfold, and that includes the location of the proposed ferrochrome smelter.”

As all the politicians well know, but are afraid to tell people, the Black Thor project will not go ahead in anything like a timely, rational fashion unless every First Nations band remotely nearby is “accommodated” to its satisfaction; that is, with jobs, contracts and even equity participation.

There is the unenviable, and sometimes even surreal, task of the excellent and well-meaning Ring of Fire Secretariat, Christine Kaszycki, to try to find out what each First Nations band’s payoff “accommodation” bottom line demands are and then try to get the other players to agree with them.

Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli should not be criticizing her. She’s trying her best to do a difficult, if not impossible, job.

Instead, he should be roundly lambasting all the provincial and federal politicians and civil service elites who, over the last 10 years, have timidly stood by as silent, unprotesting and passive enablers as our high courts in Ottawa and Toronto have surely and steadily emasculated Crown sovereignty to the extent that, with respect to economic development on Crown lands, our elected governments are no longer ultimate masters in their own respective houses, and worth projects like Black Thor are held hostage to uncertain, ill-defined, unending economic shakedown-like accommodation and consultation process.

Peter Best

Greater Sudbury