Revenue sharing with First Nations gaining traction

Watch above: With resource development the key to economic development in Canada, University of Saskatchewan professor Ken Coates argues it is time for Saskatchewan to look at revenue sharing with First Nations.

SASKATOON – Revenue sharing with First Nations is an idea that is gaining ground across the country. That’s according to professor Ken Coates, the University of Saskatchewan research chair for regional innovation.

“This is one of those ideas that was off the table 25 years ago,” Coates told Global News. “(But) First Nations have been pushing it for about two decades now, it’s really found its legs. This is going to be one of the ways in which we accommodate aboriginal people in the resource economy.”

Coates recently authored a national research paper on revenue sharing with First Nations. The Ottawa-based Macdonald-Laurier Institute has released Coates’ 44 page paper called “Sharing the Wealth.”

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He says there has been a big increase in resource development across the country – and First Nations are playing a major role.

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“Now there’s absolutely no denying that aboriginal folks have a key role to play in the development of Canadian resources, and they have to be involved in ways that are constructive and positive and forward looking,” said Coates.

“When First Nations people are involved in resource development, you increase dramatically the total economic return to a province, or a region,” he said. “That money doesn’t flow out of the country … that money actually circulates within the province, so if you look at a place like the Yukon, where they have seven or eight mines that are now active or under development, we are seeing an increase not just in mining activity, but an increase in car sales, in house purchases, things of that sort, because the First Nations money is staying in the region.”

Coates says the idea of sharing  resource wealth with First Nations was almost ridiculed two decades ago. But a series of court rulings have shifted power towards First Nations treaty rights.

And now, he says, resource rich provinces like British Columbia and Quebec are embracing the idea. He thinks Saskatchewan and Alberta should be re-evaluating their position as well.

“They basically have argued that when Saskatchewan and Alberta get resources they pass it on to all people in the province, all residents get the economic benefit of the development of resources,” he said.

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“But British Columbia used to argue that as well, and British Columbia has recognized really simply that if it wants resource development to go ahead in a systematic way, if it wants approval from First Nations to develop on their lands, they had better accept the idea of resource revenue sharing.”

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Coates argues First Nations are showing they have the track record and the management skills to make revenue sharing work.

“We now have aboriginal communities across the country that manage tens of millions if not hundreds of millions of dollars of resources,” he said. “We never hear about them.”

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