Indigenous Leaders Call for Mandatory Wisdom Panels for Elders on Resource Projects

Some Indigenous leaders are hoping the Government of Alberta will act on a recent recommendation in the Allan Report to create Elder Wisdom Committees, which could be involved whenever a major natural resource project is proposed in the province.

The intention of the panels would be to bridge the gap that often exists between Indigenous communities, government officials, and industry when projects like pipelines and transmission lines are proposed.

The panels are one of the recommendations of Commissioner Steve Allan’s recent inquiry, a long-delayed and controversial report on alleged anti-Alberta energy campaigns. While the report’s findings on the role of foreign money in canceling resource projects were largely inconclusive and found no illegal behavior, some Indigenous leaders do not want the recommendation specific to senior-led projects be forgotten.

“Constructive and open dialogue is necessary to enable First Nations communities to explore economic development opportunities for their people, while balancing their strong commitments and history of protecting the land and the environment,” wrote Allan in the panel report.

Some Indigenous leaders are calling on Premier Jason Kenney to pass a motion to accept the recommendation to the Legislature and Energy Minister Sonya Savage to create and mandate seniors committees.

“Reconciliation begins when Indigenous peoples develop their own economies for financial security and stability and participate meaningfully in the larger Canadian and international marketplace,” said Chief Randy Ermineskin of the Ermineskin Cree Nation in central Alberta. , in a press release.

Knowledge of local Indigenous communities should be vital information for government and industry, said former Grand Chief Wilton J. Littlechild, one of the commissioners of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

“Being there, as the frontline people who live in these territories, we have the best knowledge of how to protect these areas,” he said.

“We know pretty well what was there before, what is now, what changes have taken place and how development could potentially occur there.”

An oil pump operates on the Blood Tribe in southern Alberta. (Kyle Bakx / CBC)

Some projects suffered delays and legal challenges due to a lack of meaningful dialogue with indigenous groups.

“Many companies considering resource projects have seen government expectations for the regulatory process and project assessment steadily escalate over time,” said Ken Coates, professor of public policy at the University. from Saskatchewan which studies aboriginal rights.

“The idea of ​​the Elders Panel is one where you can get well-organized, thoughtful, careful, knowledge-based Indigenous leaders to kind of take an active role in the process and that has to be good for everyone.” , did he declare.

The Indian Resource Council and the Chief of the Bearspaw First Nation, west of Calgary, are among those supporting the creation of elders’ committees.

While the investigation has focused on foreign funding of opposition to the development of the oil fields, some hope that more attention will be paid to this particular recommendation.

“Elders Wisdom Panels will help fill the gaps in opportunity and create the structural conditions for economic and social sustainability for all Canadians,” said Mac Van Wielingen, Founder of ARC Financial and New Chairman of the Business Council of Alberta, in a press release.

The investigation cost taxpayers $ 3.5 million. Allan said he would not comment on his report due to legal restrictions placed on commissioners after submitting a report.

“Aboriginal consultation and participation is essential to energy resource development and land management. Alberta Energy will explore future opportunities to continue to engage Indigenous communities on issues related to the energy sector, ”Alberta Energy spokesperson Jennifer Henshaw said in an emailed statement.

The provincial government already has an Indigenous Wisdom Advisory Committee to provide knowledge for environmental monitoring efforts.


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