Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaking at a town hall at First Nations University in Regina on April 13. CPAC Screen capture

Trudeau suggests First Nations want to deal with the current federal government because its easier than dealing with the provinces, but warns of a “toxic” federal government in the future

REGINA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will not move to take away provincial control of natural resources.

The issue of First Nations vs provincial control of natural resources came up at a town hall held at First Nations University in Regina held on April 13.

It was a continuation of the dustup between the provincial governments of Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba and federal minister of Justice and Attorney General David Lametti, who had been asked by two First Nations chiefs on April 5 about rescinding the Natural Resources Transfer Act. That legislation, dating to the 1930s, gave the provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba the same jurisdiction over natural resource the other provinces in confederation had already held. Lametti’s response was, “I obviously can’t pronounce on that right now. But I do commit to looking at that.

“It won’t be uncontroversial, is the only think I would say, with a bit of a smile.”

That response led to the premiers of those three provinces reacting harshly, even bring up the specter of national unity being at stake.

At the town hall, Dr. Danette Starblanket, assistant professor, Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Regina, introduced herself and asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, about the National Resource Transfer Agreements. The exchange can be watched on CPAC’s website here, starting at 1:28:05.

Starblanket said, “I’d like to see a federal commitment to address that. My nation never gave up any resource rights. Never. Period.

“So I think that’s really important to get to the bottom of this. I know a lot of chiefs have been wanting to deal with this matter. And I think we need to get some sort of committee, or I don’t care what it is. But we have rights to these resources, period.”

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Trudeau shuts down the idea

Trudeau replied, “Natural resources – there was no question that the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People lays out that there needs to be an involvement, inclusion in the benefits of the land to the people who’ve lived here for millennia. That is fundamental. There’s no question about it. But right now, the conversation about getting the federal government to take back control those resources is a non-starter. It’s not going to happen. Federal government is not going to reopen the constitution to take back control of natural resources.

“And the reason why is: there’s multiple reasons why, but here’s the concrete reason why you’re asking.

“It’s because you have a federal government right now, that is serious about reconciliation. That has said, that has adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. That is said yes, we need to make sure that economic reconciliation and a stronger future is there for Indigenous peoples across this country. We need to build these partnerships and be joint stewards of the land. This is something we need to do, and it’s something that we have demonstrated as a federal government that we are serious about doing.

“There is absolutely nothing preventing provincial governments from saying exactly the same thing. Indeed, there are provincial governments that have taken great strides towards that. I think British Columbia, for example, where the nature of reconciliation is such that I’m taking lessons from what John Horgan was able to do a few years ago, on how we adapt the UNDRIP into what we’re doing.

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“So right now there is a little bit to this of shopping around for jurisdiction. Saying well, the federal government is willing to do more with us. So let’s make sure the federal government takes back control the resources so they can do what they do, and share with us.

“But that’s not the way Canada works. Because who knows, maybe you know, five years from now, or 20 years from now. There’ll be a government in Ottawa that is completely toxic to the idea of reconciliation.

“And it’ll be you know, it’ll be someone like some like Kaylee, who’s premier of Saskatchewan, who’s going to be all about saying, ‘Oh my God, why did we give up natural resource control?’ Because we’d be doing it for there to Ottawa.

“The solution on that is making sure that every order of government, from federal to provincial to municipal, is serious and committed to using the tools and the powers they have to advance reconciliation and this relationship.

“So I’m flattered by the fact that you think the federal government should step in and save you in this in this situation. But that doesn’t sustain this system for the long term. Governments change. The constitution shouldn’t. The constitution is part of what packages on Section 35 rights that give you such such ground to stand on in these conversations. The federal government has adopted UNDRIP. The conversation has to take place, even though it’s a harder conversation, with a provincial government that has control over natural resources in the division of powers of our Constitution, to make sure that Indigenous communities are benefiting from this land that they have been stewards of, here in Treaty 4 territory, and elsewhere across the country, for millennia.

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“It is a harder conversation than your conversation with me, there’s no question about it. But it has to happen. Not just it has to happen, because it’s the right thing to do. But if Saskatchewan is going to be drawing in global investment, if Saskatchewan is going to be that kind of partner that wants to show we can do mining and potash and uranium, and that is selling to the world in incredibly important moments. And yet they can’t demonstrate a positive working relationship with indigenous peoples? People will just say, ‘You know what, I’m going to try and find that potash from somewhere else. Because Indigenous peoples aren’t part of the success of we want to be one of the good guys.’

“We want to be aligned with the good guys, and consumers around the world are asking for that. When you buy something, you want to know it was made cleanly, it was made responsibly with good labor laws, and with respect of Indigenous peoples, the world is going to catch up. Hopefully, provincial governments will understand it is in their deep interest to take as seriously reconciliation as we do at the federal level. Thank you for that question,” Trudeau concluded.

 

 

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