Ontario’s new regional chief wants to see First Nations get a cut of royalties and taxes collected from resource extraction projects on traditional lands. In an interview following his election victory, Stan Beardy told Wawatay that it is not enough for industry and governments to simply provide jobs and training to First Nations people in exchange for access to resources on First Nations’ land.
Beardy said that the treaty relationship, where First Nations agreed to share the land and resources, means that the wealth generated by both the provincial and federal governments from that land should be shared with First Nations.
“We agree that when we talk about benefits (from resource extraction) we talk about guaranteed jobs and training, across the board, for First Nations people,” Beardy said. “But also there has to be a discussion on arrangements in regards to sharing the wealth. That means not only being compensated for being displaced from your homelands, but also we’re talking about sharing the wealth of the funds collected by the governments for user fees, royalties and taxes.”
Beardy, the former Nishnawbe Aski Nation grand chief, won the election for regional chief of Ontario on June 27 over Angus Toulouse.
On top of his new regional chief position, Beardy also became the Ontario representative for the Assembly of First Nations.
He said resource royalty sharing with First Nations has to be discussed as part of the national agenda.
In order for that to happen, Beardy said governments at both provincial and federal levels have to enact laws that guide how industry and government interacts with First Nations on resource extraction projects.
“One of the challenges is the fact that we don’t get any support from the governments in the form of enabling legislation to participate in the economy,” Beardy said.
“When you talk about resource benefit sharing you’re talking about some kind of legislation, some kind of policy that directs the government and third-parties in how they interact with First Nations.”
Beardy added that the Ring of Fire has provided a chance for First Nations and the Ontario government to create a new framework on how resource projects are handled, that could then serve as a model for the rest of the country.
“In the statements made by (First Nations) people today in regards to resource extraction like the Ring of Fire, they make it very clear that we’re not against resource development, but we have to make sure that we benefit,” Beardy said.
“The principal is that we agree to share in the wealth derived from the development of our natural resources.”
He said that one of his first tasks as regional chief will be to develop a framework with input from all Ontario First Nations to identify priorities across the province.