Bob Zimmer: Time for Canada to stop ignoring First Nations that support natural resource development


“Indigenous communities are on the verge of a major economic breakthrough, one that finally allows Indigenous people to share in Canada's economic prosperity. Bill C-69 will stop this progress in its tracks.” - Stephen Buffalo, President and CEO of Indian Resource Council

Despite strong opposition from many Indigenous leaders, groups and communities, in the last Parliament the Liberals used their majority to ensure Bill C-69, the No More Pipelines Bill, received Royal Assent before the fall election.

With the passing of Bill C-69, the Liberals once again ignored the views of Indigenous leaders and have created endless barriers to economic development for their communities. Other examples include the cancelling of the Northern Gateway pipeline, the arbitrary five-year moratorium on offshore oil and gas extraction in the Arctic, and imposing a tanker ban on the B.C. coast.

And now, a United Nations committee is calling for the halt of construction on some of our province’s most important natural resource projects despite the fact that these projects have undergone extensive consultation and review, as well as have the support of many Indigenous leaders.

One of the projects, the Coastal GasLink pipeline, has had over 15,000 “interactions and engagements” with Indigenous groups since June 2012 and has signed agreements with 20 of the 20 elected First Nations along the pipeline’s path who support this pipeline.

There is no doubt that throughout Canada there is strong Indigenous support for natural resource development projects and the potential economic benefits these projects would bring.

Dale Swampy, president of the National Coalition of Chiefs, recently wrote an article outlining just how large this support is, stating that: “Indigenous communities have entered into over 450 agreements with mining companies since 2000, and 58 per cent have a contract or agreement with a forestry company. Across Canada, 25 First Nations produce oil on reserve and 35 produce natural gas. Dozens more have entered into agreements to have pipelines cross through their territory, and three separate Indigenous consortia are vying to purchase the Trans Mountain pipeline on behalf of their communities.”

It is clear that many Indigenous communities are looking to responsible natural resource development as a way to encourage economic prosperity. It is time for this Liberal government to stop ignoring them.

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There can be no true and lasting reconciliation without economic reconciliation. The government must act to empower Indigenous communities to share in the wealth that Canada is so capable of creating.

A great first step would be to remove the ‘No More Pipelines Bill C-69’.

Bob Zimmer is Member of Parliament for Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies.

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