So farmers are upset that Manitoba Hydro and the NDP government aren’t properly consulting with or compensating them for building Bipole III transmission towers on their property.
Government is described as “paternalistic” and “in this day and age, that’s simply not good enough.”
They should stand with First Nations people whose constitutionally guaranteed right to be consulted and accommodated is routinely ignored and consistently requires protest, court and other actions to compel government and developers to honour their rights.
First Nations people have expert knowledge about the effects of paternalistic treatment.
In the case of Bipole III, Minister Gordon Mackintosh issued an Environment Act licence on Aug. 14, 2013, without consulting with the Anishinaabe Agowidiiwinan First Nations collective, in a process independent of the Clean Environment Commission hearings. The licence was approved a mere two weeks after they had received less than sufficient funding to prepare community and partial expert reports on remediation, prevention and rehabilitation to assist in identifying and negotiating ways to protect their rights.
Negotiations to secure funding were frustrated by government, resulting in delays that prevented meaningful consultation before a final decision was made to issue the licence.
To add insult to injury, on Aug. 15, 2013, AA First Nations wrote to Premier Greg Selinger. They outlined how their consultation and accommodation rights had been violated. Two weeks later, Mackintosh replied that Bipole III licence conditions “would address aboriginal concerns.” This, despite the fact that they had no input into the foundational reports upon which licence conditions were created. None of the licence conditions relate to them.
Anishinaabe Agowidiiwinan have had to appeal the Bipole III licence, asking Mackintosh to suspend the operation of the licence and any permits until impacts on their lands, communities and rights have been addressed through proper consultation. That was six months ago.
Government defends its decision to locate Bipole III on the west side because it would have cost “millions of taxpayer dollars” to negotiate community benefits agreements with east side First Nations. Of course, any such costs pale when compared to what Canadians really owe aboriginal people for all of the development, settlement and resource extraction the Crown agreed to share when treaties were signed. Also, the costs to aboriginal people in what they have lost and are still forced to endure because of the negative effects settlement and development have had on their land and communities.
The province assigns implicit blame to folks on the east side and in the next breath fails to deal properly and fairly with west side First Nations. This is bad policy and politics. Government should be honouring First Nations’ rights and the terms of treaties we all share a responsibility to uphold. Rather than remove barriers to reconciliation, more division is fostered.
Bipole III isn’t the only recent example of the Anishinaabe Agowidiiwinan being denied consultation and meaningful power within such processes. Government deliberately excluded them from being consulted on an irrigation project on the Little Saskatchewan River last year. This, too, remains unresolved.
I hope these farmers will understand they are not alone in being ignored. Maybe now, the importance of treaties, proper consultation, accommodation, and the Idle No More movement will be seen more positively.
When a development is proposed, First Nations must be part of the decision-making process at the start. We must either share the gains obtained from resource development or we must accept decisions not to develop resources on treaty lands when they determine development is not in the best interest of their communities.
Isn’t this how these farmers expect to be treated? To stand up for their rights and to stand with others who are doing the same?