Alberta Métis sign forestry deal potentially worth billions
‘There has never been a deal like this’
Tim Querengesser is senior editor with Alberta Venture. Email Tim
by Tim Querengesser
The Edmonton Journal is reporting that industry and Aboriginal groups in northern Alberta have reached what some are calling a landmark economic agreement.
The Peavine, Paddle River and East Prairie Métis Settlements in northern Alberta have reportedly struck a deal with Active Energy Group, a European timber company. Said to be worth billions in potential revenues, the deal will see the firm granted exclusive timber rights on land owned by the Métis in exchange for creating a joint-venture company.
Those who negotiated the deal describe it as a game changer. “Industry has been on our doorstep numerous times with deals that provided royalties and that’s it,” Iner Gauchier, chairman of the Peavine Métis Settlement, told the Edmonton Journal. “Through this, we are ready to go forward as part of the corporation and will have a say in how industry operates on our land. For generations we survived through hunting, trapping and fishing, but that is gone. Not only will this provide jobs, but real, tangible careers. I was really clear from the beginning that we had to be equal partners. There has never been a deal like this. Any time anyone tried to negotiate one, the Indians got screwed.”
The deal setting up the new joint-venture reportedly has language that allows for First Nation assets to be independently assessed and valued. This will mean they receive what the Journal described as “an equitable share of the long-term commercial proceeds.” The three Métis communities will collectively own 45 per cent of the venture, and Active Energy will own 45 per cent. The final 10 per cent will be owned by Grand Chief Ronald Derrickson, a negotiator of the deal.
As part of the deal, Active Energy must offer jobs and support programs in the three Métis communities. A spokesperson for Active Energy also said power stations fuelled by wood products will be built in each of the communities.
Derrickson, who will chair the new Kelowna-based company, was bold in his comments about the significance of the deal. “This is a deal that is unprecedented in Canadian history,” he told the Journal. “It is a partnership where equal interest is shared by Active Energy and the asset holders, who will be actively engaged in the company. If all of the companies that are being sued now in Canada over aboriginal land rights had entered deals like this, we would have a prosperous native society.”