Metis Nation Speaks On East Side Development
Tue Oct 30 2007
To date, the Manitoba Metis Federation has listened carefully to the debate and weighed the arguments of the many sides involved in the very serious debate about development on the east side of Lake Winnipeg. Clearly there are differing visions for the future of our province.
The benefits of development must be shared by all. In turn, environmental responsibility must also be shared. Laws regarding environmental assessment and potential impacts on aboriginal cultures, including consultation and accommodation, must be carefully considered. Business, culture, and environment are part of a delicate balance that must be respected.
Without any doubt, aboriginal peoples, including the Metis, have a role to play in meeting Crown constitutional obligations. We must be meaningful partners in the consultation, discussions, negotiations and planning.
Unfortunately, on both the east side and throughout Manitoba, stakeholders have not raised the question as to where the Metis are in economic development vision and environmental decision-making.
It appears that stakeholders, including governments, First Nations and industry, after having their rights recognized and voices heard, have forgotten that the Metis Nation also has a unique relationship with the Crown and with the land, as the founders of our province, partners in Confederation, and as an aboriginal people.
The Metis have always been builders and entrepreneurs. We respect the needs and aspirations of others. We are supportive of the attempts by others to create jobs and build communities. We have also a great respect for our lands and waters and for those who at personal cost protect the environment. But such respect must always be mutual. In reaching their goals, others cannot just walk over the Metis.
Forestry, mining, energy and other resource developers, as well as environmental organizations, cannot continue addressing environmental and economic issues without Metis participation. The Metis have rights and interests on the east side and elsewhere throughout the province. We caution those who might erroneously believe they can unilaterally plan and authorize development on our traditional lands.
To continue without Metis participation brings great risk to the financial investments by government and industry. The costs are just too great to proceed without the Metis at the table. To provide certainty and to minimize risk to the projects and to the environment, the Metis must be properly consulted. The Metis view will soon be heard as we ensure our people's voice is heard.
It is interesting that the current debate has been focused on the east side. With respect to the proposed new development of hydroelectric transmission lines, no one has raised any flags about aboriginal rights or possible objections on the west side of Manitoba. Without proper consultation, we may find ourselves in the same confrontational situation. Clearly aboriginal rights and interests, including those of the Metis, cannot be ignored.
For the moment, we watch and await a forthcoming invitation to become partners in the development and together share in the growth of Manitoba. If the Metis continue to be ignored, and decisions are made without our participation, don't be surprised if we vigorously protect our rights and interests.
We will wait. But not forever.
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