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The Resources Paradox

The Sixties Scoop ruling is another big win for First Nations - deservedly so when you look at the court's logic: 

"The Sixties Scoop happened and great harm was done."

"There is no dispute about the fact that thousands of aboriginal children living on reserves in Ontario were apprehended and removed from their families by provincial child welfare authorities over the course of the class period - from 1965 to 1984 - and were placed in non-aboriginal foster homes or adopted by non-aboriginal parents. "

The court held that there was 'duty of care' owed by Canada to the First Nations, and that:

"A duty of care at common law, however, has been established. In my view, section 2(2) and the obligation to consult creates a common law duty of care and provides a basis in tort for the class members' claims."

INAC Minister Bennett obviously agreed since she indicated, before the ink was even dry, that this ruling would not be appealed.

So this is yet another indictment of Canada's treatment of Indigenous Peoples that's starting to add up to a major list of recent legal successes and news events now requiring national reconciliation: starting with the Residential Schools class action settlement, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, formal adoption of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Murdered and Missing Women & Girls Commission Inquiry, and now the Sixties Scoop. These recent developments; to which we can add the Report on the Royal Commission of Aboriginal Peoples to provide context (post-Oka). And even though the key terminology has evolved from Indian to Aboriginal to Indigenous; Canada apparently fares no better in court when it comes to its polices to address socioeconomic issues on the native file.

Next day's Globe & Mail editorial laid the blame on Ottawa: `The wrong was the government's.`

But none of these recent developments offer economic solutions, which is where I hope to urge the conversation to go. While the Truth and Reconciliation Commission barely touched on the role of economic development, it did make this insightful comment right up front: 

"The Canadian government pursued this policy of cultural genocide because it wished to divest itself of its legal and financial obligations to Aboriginal people and gain control over their land and resources. (TRC Final Report pg. 3)

It's that land and resources reference that interests me as a resource strategist, because it is precisely in this area of law where Indigenous People have racked-up the biggest legal winning streak in Canadian legal history. Inuit, First Nations and Metis are regaining control over their land and resources, to the point today that it is well-nigh impossible for proponents to bring new projects on stream without Indigenous endorsement and support.

The paradox reference in the title of this article has to do with the relentless anti-pipeline shift to protecting Mother Earth at all costs; paradoxically. just when they are in the driver's seat to commercialize their legal wins and benefit accordingly. The Metis have not fallen for this eco-activist agenda and are making major economic headway, that First Nations can learn from. 

It's time for native leaders to put economic development on their priority list and gain proper benefits from their winning streak. Because those recent social justice wins don't pay dividends.

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