Build trust and reconciliation with First Nations to break impasse: report

VANCOUVER – Trust and reconciliation must be built between governments and First Nations as Canada aims to boost energy exports through major pipeline projects in the western provinces, says a new report.

Most First Nations communities in B.C. and Alberta see the value and economic opportunity in energy developments but they want the work to be done in an environmentally sustainable way that acknowledges their rights, said the report released Thursday by Vancouver lawyer Doug Eyford.

Industries understand the necessity of working with aboriginal communities but the federal government needs to address matters beyond specific projects, he said in the report.

Eyford, who was appointed as the federal government’s envoy to tackle First Nations pipeline concerns in Western Canada, made several recommendations, including that Ottawa undertake a “principled” dialogue with aborginals about resource development.

“My view, and the recommendation I’ve made, is that there’s an opportunity for governments to engage either through formal consultations or otherwise through the process of relationship building with First Nations communities outside of consultation processes,” Eyford said after releasing his report.

“It’s clear, however, that progress will only occur if the constitutionally protected rights of aboriginal Canadians are taken into account in project development,” said Eyford, who is also the federal government’s chief negotiator on comprehensive land claims.

The report also recommends that aboriginal leaders undertake strategic planning to help them take advantage of the employment and business opportunities the projects represent.

Several major energy projects are proposed in B.C., including the Northern Gateway pipeline and a proposal by Kinder Morgan to almost triple the capacity of it existing Trans Mountain pipeline delivering Alberta oil to B.C. ports for export.

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said Eyford listened to aboriginal communities and conveyed what he heard in his report and recommendations.

“We will listen to what they said through this report as well. The whole point of the prime minister’s appointment of Mr. Eyford was to advance our thinking and to build a constructive relationship.”

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