Certainty in Aboriginal Title Territories?

December 5, 2011

Arthur Manuel

It is very important to understand the term “CERTAINTY” and how that relates to the fact that Aboriginal Title was found by the SupremeCourt of Canada in 1997 to exist and that Aboriginal Title is protected under the Constitution of Canada 1982.


Certainty must be looked at in context of economics because that is the grounds it is being used in this news article.  The basis of uncertainty is the fact that Aboriginal Title has been found and is protected by the Constitution of Canada 1982.  These legal and constitutional facts create uncertainty because it affects resource industries because of land access. 


Provincially created property rights like mineral permits and forestry licenses did not and cannot extinguish Aboriginal Title because the province never had power over Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous Territories.  This means that the province does not have full or 100% title over the land and resources in British Columbia because Indigenous Peoples hold Aboriginal Title in British Columbia.  Existing provincially created property have politically been left off the negotiation table in the BC treaty process but for us who have never been part of that process we never agreedwith that political decision, nor did the leadership who made that decision on our behalf. 


This means that the province has never had the capacity to give full title to anyone who holds provincial property.  This is what is creating the economic uncertainty.  The Canada and British Columbia governments have been trying to manage this risk through the federal Comprehensive Land Claims Policy and the BC Treaty Process.  This can be seen in BC Financial Statements.  The BC government has to report in their Annual Financial Statements, how they are dealing with their liability to Indigenous Peoples for our Aboriginal Title.  They tell the public and the investors that the majority of Indigenous Peoples are going to accept land from the province as settlements and that we are actually borrowing money to negotiate the extinguishment of our Aboriginal Title.  This report is required according to accounting standards that all contingent liabilities need to be reported.  


I am attaching a copy of the 2010 Financial Statements.  This statement needs to be analyzed by the grassroots and we need to report to Standard and Poor's the inaccuracy of this report regarding our Aboriginal Title.  This report is supposed to be accurate or the BC government's financial credibility will be shot.


BC Indian Land Question has always had an economic factor and was first addressed in the 1990 Price Waterhouse report that DIA commissioned.  The report is titled “Economic Value of Uncertainty Associated with Native Claims in BC, March 1990”.  Price Waterhouse is a major accounting firm and found that Land Claims created uncertainty in the mining industry and impacted the BC economy.  DIA knew this since 1990 but instead of working with Indigenous Peoples to resolve this issue for our benefit DIA has been working feverishly to extinguish our Aboriginal Title.   


The uncertainty the BC economy is suffering from is the direct cause of the Canadian and BC settler governments not legitimately recognizing Aboriginal Title on the ground.  The uncertainty is the gap created between Canada and BC’s business-as-usual strategy and the fact that business investors like mining companies need certainty.   But Canada and BC cannot give certainty without an agreement with Indigenous Peoples who have Aboriginal Title to their Territories.  In essence this is how free prior informed consent is materializing out of the ground.  We need to be really careful that our rights do not get high centered through cash deals and the long-term interests of Aboriginal Title are held in abeyance to allow a mine to operate for 12 years and the economic security of our grandchildren are put on hold.  We need to address the broader issues collectively across BC and Canada or we will have some quick cash for a fewyears but our grandchildren will have to live with the tailings.   


In the Price Waterhouse the mining industry identified land access as being a risk.  This risk is based upon the uncertainty of what Indigenous Peoples will do in regard to a mining activity.  What you do in terms of an agreement in terms of changing the uncertainty your Aboriginal Title creates to certainty for the mining company is what will determine if you are economically competent or incompetent (smart or stupid).  This is why we really need to talk at the community level about how we can address our poverty through Aboriginal Title.  Certainty means a heck of lot more than just a media headline for big business and big government.  It means how the poor in our community can be factored into the economy; not just as employees but also more importantly as titleholders with responsibilities toward and with the right to accrue benefits from ourAboriginal Title Territories.   


We can analyze this kind of scenario in metric or non-metric forms.  In terms of Eurocentric neo-classic models or from an Indigenous base models but that is for further discussions.  Understand what Risk, Uncertainty and Certainty first to get your mind in tune with reshaping ourcommunity from poverty to being factored into the economy of Canada and theGlobal Community. 


Our Elders from previous years of struggle have given us the mechanism to do this work now.  I am also attaching a picture of some ladies marching for our self-determination and creating economic uncertainty for the mines that want exploit us and our sovereign territories.  Thanks a lot to all you marchers.


Certainty in Aboriginal Title Territories?