A University of Saskatchewan professor says the provincial government may have to put resource revenue sharing with First Nations on the table if it wants development projects to move forward.
The Sask. Party government and James Smith Cree Nation are currently in a standoff over a proposed diamond mine in the northeastern part of the province.
The province insists it has met its duty to consult obligations with local Indigenous communities and has approved an environmental assessment for the Star Diamond mine project.
However, James Smith insists this is not the case.
The government has repeatedly said it has no interest in sharing resource revenues with First Nations but Ken Coates, who teaches in the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the U of S, says it may want to reconsider this stance if it wants projects like Star Diamond to move forward.
“I think on the government side, the government’s very strong position on resource revenue sharing has really sort have been a frustration for First Nations,” he says. “British Columbia used to oppose resource revenue sharing very strongly and they now have a resource revenue regime. Ontario is in the middle of talking about it as well.”
Coates admits there are no hard and fast rules as to what exactly meets a government’s duty to consult obligations with Indigenous communities and it is not surprising differences of opinion occur.
In the end, though, he says who is actually right and who is wrong may be a moot point as First Nations have the ability to hold up development projects if they choose to do so.
“It’s quite clear that unless there is sort of a greater responsiveness by the province and the mining companies, you’re probably going to have further delays. Indigenous people always have the right to go to court and to put new rules and things in place to try and get a new accommodation and to try to get the court to in fact say things weren’t done properly.”
The proposed diamond mine is in the Fort a La Corne Forest area.
As part of its environmental assessment approval, the province says Star Diamond must provide James Smith with $5.5 million for various environmental and community programs.
The federal government signed off on the multibillion-dollar project in 2014.
(PHOTO: Ken Coates. Photo courtesy of Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business.)