The need to consult Indigenous people before development takes place is not a conceit of a particular political party or the whim of the current government, said former parliamentarian Bob Rae. It’s the law, he said, and municipalities would be wise to heed that notion so progress can move forward.
“The idea that you can develop the next big development in Northern Canada or Northern Ontario without the full participation of the First Nations is not only a fanciful idea, it’s also an illegal idea,” Rae said. “There’s no getting around it. I think it’s really important for all of us to take a deep breath and understand that is the case.”
Speaking to municipal representatives during the May Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM) conference in Timmins, Rae drew on his experience in politics and law, and especially his current role as Ring of Fire advisor to the Matawa Chiefs Council, to speak about emerging relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.
Decades of development took place without input from First Nations people, mostly because nobody thought development required any consent, Rae said. But that’s changed.
There’s a common refrain emanating from First Nations communities: they feel unheard by the Crown, they’re excluded from the decision-making process, they don’t receive a share of revenues from major development projects, and they have no control over their land and territory.
If those concerns don’t sound familiar, they should, Rae said.
“What the First Nations are looking for is exactly what you’re looking for,” he noted. “They are looking for a chance to participate and take greater control of the development that is happening all around.”
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