Miners best consult with First Nations

Miners best consult with First Nations Re: "When 'Final Land Claims' aren't actually 'final' by Yule Schmidt (National Post, Feb. 25) I'm a pro-development strategist who has turned-out a book called Resource Rulers: Fortune and Folly on Canada's Road t

Re: “When ‘Final Land Claims’ aren’t actually ‘final’ by Yule Schmidt (National Post, Feb. 25)

I’m a pro-development strategist who has turned-out a book called Resource Rulers: Fortune and Folly on Canada’s Road to Resources.

My Yukon credentials are receding. I was federal negotiator for the 1993 Yukon Oil and Gas Accord, was properly rewarded with one of Captain Dick’s surprises, and read last year that the Council of Yukon First Nations had presented the Yukon premier with a copy of Resource Rulers as a Christmas present.

Other than that, I’ve kept track of the consistent legal winning streak racked-up by Yukon First Nations (a litany of same is quite beyond the scope of this letter).

Whether it’s airports, parks, mining, caribou, heritage habitat, or big plans to open things up; it’s clear to me that working with First Nations is the only way to go.

I recommend that if a proponent has the money to buy but one airline ticket, better to visit the adjacent First Nation than to take your chances on a trip to Whitehorse. Given the current complexity of land claim settlements, legal judgments and politicking, that First Nation is your best “project insurance policy.”

You can wade into the legal waters if you like, but you might not want to rely on the few dissenting opinions in the Yukon’s legal opus, given the over-riding weight of the winning side’s precedents. And while the first half of Schmidt’s article is a decent recitation of the principles underlying the reconciliation of respective rights, the second half is a hodge-podge of Reform Party-type canards (“judicial activism,” “dissenting opinions,” “fiduciary as a synonym for paternalism”) that the native legal winning streak has since driven multiple legal stakes through.

Speaking of staking, the next batter up might want to try joint venturing with that adjacent First Nation and have the claim entered in its name. There’s a novel idea!

The law on the duty to consult is quite clear – it’s been embraced at every Court of Appeal in the country (except P.E.I.) and hardly requires further fine-tuning. It’s time for the Yukon government to get with the program and quit handing matters off to their litigators.

Bill Gallagher

Waterloo, Ontario

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