On the National Interest

Day, Isadore - Sean Kilpatrick, CP.jpg

Given the renovation of Canada's symbolic landscape now underway in the name of reconciliation, Canadians cannot be faulted for wondering what the prime minister meant when he told the U.N. that he intended to establish "nation-to-nation" relations with indigenous people. This week we got an indication.

In a letter dated October 16, three regional First Nations chiefs informed the feds that they would no longer participate in the process by which laws vetting resource mega-projects are overhauled. The chiefs gave two reasons. The first is that, while indigenous peoples have been promised "full partnership" in such consultations, the actual discussions "have been largely one-sided and do not encompass the principles of collaboration and transparency." The second is a statement of first principles that should give all Canadians pause. In the words of Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day (shown above), "Our order of priority is environmental sustainability and then the national interest. The federal government's order of priority is the national interest and then environmental sustainability."

This is a remarkably concise and useful articulation of the current impasse. It suggests, at the very least, that as inclusive as Liberal ministers Jim Carr and Catherine McKenna are endeavoring to be on resource policy, fundamental differences on the all-important question of the national interest cannot be papered over.