Transition from Passive Conservationists to Active Environmental Protectionists; it’s all up to Trudeau

by pbalbian on October 7, 2016 - 7:40pm

The term “Staples Economy” was coined to describe a country’s economy which relies heavily on its ability to exploit and commercialize its Natural Resource base, for its own economic development and benefit (Mitchell, 34). Over the years, the Canadian economy has heavily relied on the extraction and exportation of minerals as a major source of revenue and employment (Mitchell, 32). As a result of the Canadian dependence on exportation of staples many times we have witnessed the neglect of the social and environmental impacts that the exploitation of Natural Resources has on Aboriginal communities. Regardless of the autonomy and rights these Aboriginal societies may hold over certain lands, we continue to see treaties violated in the Canadian North in the name of economic development.

Due to the geographic location of northwestern Canada the area has developed abundant mineral resources ripe for extraction. Diamond mining in the Canadian North is slowly becoming a developed industry, and is only slated to grow as the North becomes more accessible. The article I chose is very optimistic about the economic output of a mine that opened mid-September 2016. Its author claims that the “Gahcho Kue” diamond mine is projected to bring in 6.7 Billion Dollars in revenue to the Canadian Economy. The main concern in this scenario is understanding the breakdown of this massive income of funds, and pinpointing how much of this money will go into developing the Aboriginal communities of the North West Territories. The owners of this new mine closed one of their mines in Early December 2015 due to unfavorable market conditions and left 400 people without jobs. Aboriginal communities around the Gahcho Kue mine have negotiated impact-benefit agreements with six of the surrounding communities, however these communities believe they have been given the short end of the deal and are still pursuing greater benefits for their people. These are genuine concerns which are akin to those being felt by other Aboriginal communities across Canada, they want to see people within their communities benefiting from the job opportunities created by developing the Natural Resources in their traditional territories.

Shortcomings in this impact-benefit scenario are certain to abound due to the inherent conflict of Value that arises in developing a Natural Resource (Mitchell, 13). In order to extract and export the valuable raw material in a profitable way the exploration and mining companies want to keep costs down in terms of labour costs and infrastructure development. In my opinion the two groups involved are the Corporations that have a vested interest in profiting from the natural resource with a lesser regard of the environmental impacts, and the Aboriginal communities whose traditional lifestyle is endangered with the development of Natural Resources. The government should be acting as a neutral participant in these conflicts, but oftentimes due to vested interests the government acts in favor of the corporation. Even though the government has a duty to ensure the economic integrity of projects, it also has a duty to protect the environment and represent its people, something that the Harper administration often failed to do. A conflict such as this can be detrimental to smaller communities if government support is not put in their favour there to ensure that corporations hold up their end of the agreement. My view on the “Gahcho Kue” Mine is simple, the Aboriginal communities will benefit from the economic and infrastructural development that surrounds the mine. When the mine is no longer profitable and closes down, much like the mine of Quebec that was closed in late 2015, the Aboriginal communities will be left to deal with the environmental consequences on their own as always. If we expect to rectify the issues with the current negotiation scheme in Natural Resource development, we must call upon an impartial federal government to guarantee that Aboriginal communities get their fair share from mining companies. The federal government will need to change in function from a passive conservationist role to one which plays a more active and engaged part in maintaining a safe atmosphere for Aboriginal communities, both environmentally and financially.



Mitchell, B. (2015). Resource and Environmental Management in Canada. Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press.  


Hi there! I think this post was very interesting and informative and I definitely agree with the premise that aboriginal people are being exploited in these negotiations for new economic ventures. In your post you mentioned that the federal government should be neutral instead of pro corporation. I think this is true however, I believe that this premise could be extended further. I think that the government should be pro aboriginal people and pro environment in their mining ventures. I believe that human rights and environmental rights are extremely important and they should always be prioritized over economic profit for mining companies. A government that is pro aboriginal can ensure that the rights of the aboriginal peoples are met and that their future generations are protected. Mining companies and aboriginal communities can work together when there is proper discourse and both sides are in agreement on their ends to be achieved and how they are going to get there. I have attached an article titled "The Key to Successful Engagements" which discusses Dan George who is a consultant of Aboriginal and Mining Agreements (Gahr, 2014). George says "I wish companies would think of First Nations as a business imperative and not a business impediment (Gahr, 2014)". I think this is crucial in mining and aboriginal relations; as companies often see aboriginal peoples as something they need to work around rather than as people who's livelihoods they are impacting. It is an interesting article, check it out!