Times are a Changin for Resource Sector

During the run-up to the last federal Canadian election, as the Liberal Party led by Justin Trudeau gained momentum that won them the election, I became increasingly hopeful that we would see substantial unexpected economic growth in Canada. In times of upward movement, there is a close correlation between the price of oil and the Canadian dollar (CAD), but during downward movement, the price of oil and CAD are locked in unison.

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Canada is a resource producer, that is what makes the economy tick and I thought Justin Trudeau had the realistic potential to make a huge difference for the resource sector. I completely understand many will question using Justin Trudeau, and the Liberal Party, being good for the resource sector in the same sentence. It may sound incongruent, but there are logical steps leading to this conclusion.

The fate of our economy primarily goes in the direction of the prices of oil and other commodities, we produce the commodities that countries throughout the world need. The commodities that Canada produces come from land that was taken from the indigenous people of Canada. The constitution brought in during the last Trudeau government, by Justin’s father Pierre Elliott Trudeau, started to change things for First Nations, especially as cases have made their way through the courts.

The constitution of Canada protected the rights of indigenous people as outlined in the Royal Proclamation and historical treaties. The courts in Canada have ruled that when it comes to development on treaty land or traditional land, industry is required to undergo meaningful consultation with the indigenous people’s in affected areas.

One of the big hurdles that resource companies have had to deal with more often during the past decade is the legal need to consult with First Nations groups before any work starts on the ground. Some have embraced this, far too few, but it is becoming increasingly clear which companies will advance in a timely manner and which will be bogged down. Those that ignore their duty to consult will be met with delays and those that embrace the process will move forward with fewer delays.

The federal government also plays a crucial role in making things clearer for industry and First Nations groups. The constitution is not complicated, it just takes the time to read it, and it is part of the mandate of the federal government to uphold the constitution.

As a Cree (one of the First Nations tribes in Canada) mining entrepreneur and journalist, the topic of First Nations, government and industry issues have come up often during my career. I always say that the key principles to moving things forward is very simple.

It starts with respect for First Nations constitutional rights, then consulting in a meaningful way, and most importantly inclusion. Too often, I’ve seen a lack of respect, a reluctance to accept constitutional rights, less than meaningful consultation and inclusion in the lowest end of pay scale and little equity in projects.

I’ve made it my mission during my career to make a difference concerning these issues. Part of that is through my writing, and also through my consulting work, but I’m also getting ready to launch my own mining company that will be focused on embracing the principles I’ve mentioned.

The company will use our projects as a learning ground. I’ve often said that putting First Nations youth on the ground is like putting Wayne Gretzky on the ice. They have incredible inherent skills and we will use our projects as an opportunity to use traditional knowledge and skills with science. I also want the company to be a learning ground where First Nations have the chance to get jobs from the ground to the boardroom. After all, the top job at any company is as a storyteller, another inherent skill of many First Nations people.

Bob Dylan sang that the times they are a changing. My hope is that Justin Trudeau is the first prime minister to honour the constitution concerning First Nations, I’m not convinced he will live up to the ideals he spoke about on the campaign trail. But remain hopeful.

I’m happy to see change when it comes to the resource sector, it is long overdue. The resource sector needs the ground to produce commodities and First Nations need the jobs and opportunities. We need to build bridges, and I mean to be part of making the much-needed change happen.

All the best,

Allan Barry Laboucan

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