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“We are not opposed to development, but we must be involved at the outset.
First Nation rights and responsibilities demand that we are full partners
in discussions about exploration, ownership, participation in production,
and long-term sustainability of our environment, our communities and our
futures.” (Shawn Atleo, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations)
TORONTO — The National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations brought a metaphorical carrot and stick to deliver his message of reconciliation to corporate Canada, saying the country faces “an aboriginal tsunami” and mending its relationship with the “newcomers” can only be achieved if they “smashed the status quo.”
But if any of the evocative language by Shawn Atleo caused concern among the audience of what he called “the suits of Toronto,” it seemed to be mollified by the entreaty he offered in return.
Co-operation with First Nations will avoid intractable disputes over hugely valuable resource development projects across the country, he said.
“Currently, First Nations are often the last to know about major resource development. This relegates our communities to few options, usually resulting in confrontation. So we end up with protests and legal battles that frustrate opportunities for everyone and deepen tensions today and into the future,” Chief Atleo said in his speech to the venerable Canadian Club of Toronto on Monday.
“We are not opposed to development, but we must be involved at the outset. First Nation rights and responsibilities demand that we are full partners in discussions about exploration, ownership, participation in production, and long-term sustainability of our environment, our communities and our futures.”
Economic partnership between aboriginal communities and the rest of the country is a cornerstone of true reconciliation, he said.
His message alternated between one that might engender fear from some in the mainstream of corporate Canada and one that might encourage hope.
He said the luncheon, at the Royal York hotel in the heart of downtown Toronto, was being held in the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation and was seen as land “upon which someone else’s laws are in place.”
“Almost every resource development activity currently operating or planned is occurring within 200 kilometres of a First Nations’ community and right in the middle of our traditional territories,” Chief Atleo said.
“We can do things the hard way or the harder way,” he said, noting that the population growth rate among aboriginal people was more than 25% compared with 6% for the general population.
“Young people,” he said, nodding toward a table of aboriginal students who were given a special invitation to the luncheon, “that means you are at the front edge of an aboriginal tsunami that is washing across our respective territories.”
But rather than tremble at that notion, he encouraged corporate Canada to embrace its potential.
For the rest of this article, please go to the National Post website: http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/04/23/corporate-canada-should-embrace-first-nations-as-full-partners-in-resource-development-chief-shawn-atleo/