Brian Lee Crowley

The economic value of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Canada

In my last column for the ROB’s Economy Lab (in the G&M, 28 Oct.), I made the case for reconciliation with Indigenous people (FNs, Metis and Inuit) not just on grounds of fairness and justice, but in terms of the business case. The legal and bargaining powers of Aboriginal peoples in Canada are here to stay. The only question is whether we will make that power work within the framework of the rest of our institutions (e.g. the rule of law, reliable and predictable settlement of disputes, respect of contracts, etc.) or whether we will let it become an insurmountable obstacle to investment and development, particularly in the natural resource sector. Check out the column for my thoughts on how to make this work.

Cross Country Check Up on Northern Gateway

Earlier this year the proponents of the Northern Gateway pipeline, Enbridge,  received conditional approval from the federal government to proceed to the next stage with their project.

Back in June I was invited to appear on CBC Radio One’s Cross Country Checkup, to discuss this pipeline proposal, whichwould cross northern British Columbia to bring oil sands production from Alberta to Asian markets. As I said then I am still optimistic that a pipeline proposal for transporting Canadian oil to world markets can gain the support of Aboriginal groups.

Whether that pipeline is Northern Gateway or some other proposal isn’t the central issue; what’s important is that Canada develop a method for ensuring its oil production can reach world markets.

“I believe it is possible to strike a deal that will be attractive to Aboriginal people but it’s not going to be easy and there’s going to be a heck of a lot of work ahead of us, whether it’s on the Enbridge project or another one”, he said.

To listen to the interview, click here and skip forward to the 1:24:00 mark.

Duty to consult: What it is…and isn’t

In my column for the ROB’s (Globe and Mail) Economy Lab today I put under the microscope the Supreme Court of Canada’s doctrine of the Crown’s duty to consult and accommodate Aboriginal people when their key interests are engaged, as in e.g. natural resource developments. As I see it, the doctrine leaves intact governments’ ability to act in the larger public interest, but they may only do so after good faith consultations with Aboriginal people. *Both* parties must come to the table and seek agreement in good faith. This means that neither Aboriginal communities nor governments are entitled to decide unilaterally whether adequate consultation has taken place.  Ultimately the courts will arbitrate. Thus this is neither a blank cheque to governments to carry on as before, nor a right of veto for Aboriginal people, but a call by the courts for constructive engagement. The balance is a fine one. Can we make it work?

Making up for decades of neglect of Aboriginal peoples isn’t cheap

The Fraser Institute’s Mark Milke made headlines recently with his report on the vertiginous rise in spending on Aboriginal peoples by governments in recent decades. But he neglected the context, which is renewed commitment (both judicial and constitutional) to treaties and Aboriginal rights, the appalling social and economic starting point of many Aboriginal people and the often unsung progress that has resulted from increased resources. Money is not the solution to everything, but solutions do cost money. Read my latest column in the Ottawa Citizen and other Postmedia papers.

Brian Lee Crowley
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