10/27/2011 0 Comments
Recently, inspired by this video clip of Elijah Harper on the need for the governments of Canada to honour their treaties via resource revenue sharing, I have decided to post this blog, my goal being to raise greater awareness.
As an Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe who has never received a share of the wealth of my ancestral land I have asked myself the question, “What kind of dollar amounts are extracted out of Algonquin lands?” Eventually, I went in search for an answer.
In 2005, the provincial Ministry of Northern Development and Mines gained $4.8 billion from metals, such as cadmium, cobalt, copper, silver and zinc, which were extracted from the land in southern Ontario. In the same year, $2.4 billion in non-metals, such as cement, clay products, lime, quartz, salt, soapstone and stone, were extracted. In addition, in 2004, $1.6 million in natural fuels were extracted.
While these initial figures are huge and provide an idea of the revenues that the Algonquin and other Indigenous Nations have been excluded from, I must also consider the revenues the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) generates from angling and hunting. In 2006, hunting licenses sold included; small game hunting $19.00, farmer’s deer $21.50, wild turkey $22.50, deer $36.00, bear $36.00, moose $43.00, as well as fishing licenses for $23.00 and $13.50 for a conservation fishing license. In addition, the mandatory accompanying outdoor card sold for $6.00 each. During the fiscal period of 2005-2006, Ontario-wide MNR sales statistics reported that the provincial government generated over $58.9 million.
I must also consider the revenue generated from the forestry industry. The 2003-2004 29th annual Algonquin Forestry Authority reported Algonquin Park generated $152.8 million toward Ontario’s economy. Further, today traditional Algonquin territory in Ontario has been re-mapped and re-named with the establishment of an additional seventeen provincial parks. These parks include, but are not limited to, 1958, Sharbot Lake Provincial Park; 1967, Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park; 1970, Mattawa River Provincial Park; 1971, Bonnecher Provincial Park; 1971, Bon Echo Provincial Park; 1989, Ottawa River Provincial Park; and 1989, Upper Madawaska River Provincial Park. While I do not provide the total revenue generated from these parks, in 2005, Algonquin Park alone generated over $13.5 million from visitors, campers, concessions, and commercial leases. This figure of course would substantially increase if the revenue of all seventeen parks were considered.
When reviewing these figures, I must also appreciate the revenue generated from water power created by the many hydroelectric dams built within Algonquin Anishinaabeg territory. In 1999, the estimated gross value of the hydroelectric energy produced by the Madawaska River system, a tributary of the Ottawa River, was worth about $45 million.
While in no way do I profess to provide a comprehensive analysis of resources generated from the Indigenous lands in Ontario, these figures of $4.8 billion, $2.4 billion, $1.6 million, $58.9 million, $152.8 million, $13.5 million, and $45 million gained from metal extraction, non-metal extraction, natural fuel extraction, angling and hunting license sales, the forestry industry within Algonquin Park, from other Algonquin Park revenues, and hydroelectric energy respectively, provide concrete figures and an understanding which serves to inform us that indeed economic development projects within southern Ontario have been bountiful for the governments of Canada. This discussion should serve well in challenging the belief by many that Indigenous Nations are an unproductive drain on the public purse. After all, we all live on Native land.
This discussion of resource revenues is particularly significant when one considers Russel Lawrence Barsh’s analysis. Succinctly, Barsh makes the connection between the practical manifestation of Indigenous self-government, power, and natural resources, when arguing; Indigenous power sources are the natural resources.
Unfortunately, past practice has proven that when Indigenous Nations do obtain a limited amount of resource revenue sharing through the current land claims and self-government process these revenues are not provided the constitutional protection required. One such example is the Nisga’a Nation who in 1996 received 1/4 of the salmon resources extracted from the Nass River. This lack of constitutional protection is problematic practice in that, as Michael Asch has argued, rights not constitutionally entrenched can be easily taken away. Given that resources are what guarantee the long-term viability of Indigenous self-government, this practice of denying constitutional protection by the provincial and federal governments lacks both genuine good faith and political will.
Lastly, certainly what Alice Williams offers is a truth-telling statement. Williams argues, "Every Aboriginal Nation has proprietary rights that underlie all title in this country. The Canadian state has created this as a burden that it has yet to address" (personal communication).
(This story was previously published as: Gehl, Lynn. “First Nations not sharing in wealth.” Anishinabek News Dec. 2006: 22.)
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