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.

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Reconciliation between Canadian Conservatives and Aboriginal Canada

In my latest screed for the Ottawa Citizen and other PostMedia dailies I make the case that the Tories have to change their image, as their UK cousins did, to escape being branded the “nasty party”. My suggested strategy is for them to embrace the rise and aspirations of Aboriginal Canada. Conservatives have a narrative about freedom, opportunity and the future that vibrates with the emerging younger generation of leaders and is a distinctive policy compared to the left’s preoccupation with the past and victimhood. And a side benefit would be that the Tories would be tackling directly and constructively the appalling conditions of many Aboriginal communities, helping to remove a stain on the conscience of Canada. Nor is this mere abstract theorising; the hundreds of deals that Aboriginal communities are striking today to develop natural resources on their lands are proof that Indigenous Canadians want real opportunity, not more empty rhetoric.

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Aboriginal Canada and development: Get the narrative right!

Is Aboriginal Canada, mired in poverty and poor education, nonetheless opposed in principle to doing anything to change their circumstances? You might be forgiven for thinking this if you read much of the commentary in the media surrounding the recent decision by one community to turn down over $1-billion in benefits from the proponents of an LNG facility on the west coast. But dig a little deeper and you quickly discover that in fact the reverse is closer to the truth and Aboriginal Canada is thoughtfully seizing many of the opportunities that natural resource development in particular is making available. They just want to make these decisions on their own terms. Read all about it in my latest column for the ROB’s Economy Lab feature in the Globe.

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ILS keynote in Calgary on property rights and natural resources

My friend Matt Bufton of the Institute for Liberal Studies (ILS) is organising a terrific conference on property rights to be held in Calgary 16-17 October. I’ll be the lunchtime speaker on Friday the 17th talking about both property rights issues as they relate to natural resources in Canada in general and more specifically I’ll look at First Nations property claims. Details from Matt at ILS.

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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.

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Time is not Canada’s friend on resource development

In my latest column for the Economy Lab feature in the Globe’s ROB I make the case that, “It is opportunity’s evanescence that we Canadians too often ignore at our peril, thinking that we have world enough and time to hear every voice, weigh every objection and consider every alternative to pipelines, port construction and mine developments. Surely the rest of the world will wait while we nice, polite, considerate Canadians wring our hands and dither. Alas not.”

Read the full text here.

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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?

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Social licence: 007 never had such a powerful licence to kill!

“Social licence” is a concept on everyone’s lips these days as we debate pipelines, dangerous rail cargoes, appropriate forestry policies, etc. But this benign sounding term conceals a multitude  of dangerous and arbitrary features. In the end, as I argue in my column for today’s ROB, it masks a unilateral requirement for a project’s opponents to give their blessing before a project can proceed, making it a licence for NIMBYists to kill things they don’t like, regardless of their net benefit to Canadians. This is unacceptable in a world where change always creates winners and losers and in a society governed by the rule of law.

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More than education at stake in Ottawa-First Nations pact

In my latest column for the Globe’s ROB I make the case that the newly announced agreement between Ottawa and the First Nations over education could do more than advance the cause of Aboriginal education, as vital as that is. It could also be the key to strengthening the leadership of National Chief Shawn Atleo and the influence of the new generation of Aboriginal leaders looking to turn newly- recognised rights into genuine economic opportunities.

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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.

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Brian Lee Crowley