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Treaty Negotiator Warns Alberta’s Energy Industry to Get With the Program

Bill Gallagher notes that if you were a betting man, you’d bet on First Nations

Tim Querengesser is senior editor with Alberta Venture. Email Tim

Feb 10, 2014

by Tim Querengesser

If you were keeping score in the match between Alberta’s energy industry and its ‘Aboriginal’ groups (these groups tend to call themselves nations and have names for these nations), you would note that the stats are pretty skewed, thanks to treaty rights. “There is an elephant in the room, and it is the rise of native empowerment,” Bill Gallagher, author of Resource Rulers and a consultant who oversaw regulatory hearings for Petro-Canada, told the Edmonton Journal on Friday. “My theory is whoever aligns with aboriginals before a regulatory hearing has the best chance. I don’t relish any corporate project being in the blender at the moment.”

And Gallagher is keeping score from within the blender. First Nation governments, he says, have won 40 decisions against the energy industry since 2011, and 190 over the past 20 years. As the Journal’s Marty Klinkenberg paraphrases Gallagher, “That translates into having won 90 per cent of the important decisions at the appellate level” concerning resource projects.

The courts have long been the place where First Nations assert their rights in Canada and Gallagher notes that they are often successful. For this reason, he sounds a note of caution for hubris in the energy industry in ignoring treaty rights. “[T]he Canadian justice system is wading in, as well. Corporate litigators who adopt the mantra of ‘We’ll see you in court’ are picking the wrong time to take on First Nations.”

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