North, a non-profit association that hosts the annual Minerals North Conference, asked us to
participate at the 2016 conference in a panel discussion
entitled: Working Together and Moving Forward Post
Tsilhqot'in. Held in Smithers, British Columbia on
May 18 – 20, 2016, the conference
included representatives from the provincial and federal
governments, First Nations and the mining industry. Minerals
North provided a unique opportunity to hear various perspectives on
how these groups can work together following
Our three key takeaways from the conference:
1. Industry is Still Figuring It Out
Nearly two years after the Tsilhqot'in ruling, it
was striking how keen the mining industry still is to understand
the implications of Tsilhqot'in and move forward in
their relationships with First Nations.
Tsilhqot'in undoubtedly created uncertainty for the
mining industry. For every question it answered, it raised multiple
others that have yet to be addressed. This has resulted in an
industry that is still eager to understand exactly how
Tsilhqot'in affects it, both now and into the future.
Questions such as: "does Aboriginal title include sub-surface
rights" demonstrate the depths and potential impacts of this
Despite the mining industry still figuring out the implications
of Tsilhqot'in, it is encouraging from a First Nations
perspective to see industry approaching these issues with an
earnest desire to learn and improve how they work with First
2. Government is Beginning to Understand First
Nations' Role in BC's Future
Despite a slow response to Tsilhqot'in, it appears
that the government now understands the implications of it and is
taking steps to reflect these implications in its policies.
Although a grand vision of catch all legislation to resolve the
uncertainty created by Tsilhqot'in would have perked
the ears of many in the room, the government seems to be of the
more realistic view that progress will involve ongoing
collaboration with First Nations to solve problems one step at a
This realistic approach, while not necessarily being the cure
all that industry would like to see, should be encouraging for
First Nations who are willing to work with the government in a way
that is respectful of their Nations' history and contemporary
3. First Nations are Beginning to Lead the Way
With industry and government still working to figure out where
they stand in BC's future, First Nations are primed to take a
First Nations are in the unique position of being able to
provide certainty to an otherwise uncertain environment – a
role that brings tremendous opportunity. First Nations that are
open to working with government and industry will find that these
groups are willing – if not eager – to follow
Chad Day, President of the Tahltan Central Government, exemplified this
with a forceful yet conciliatory speech about his Nation's
perspective. Day emphasized that the Tahltan Nation is keen
to work with industry but that it must be done on Tahltan terms.
This is a sentiment that we are seeing repeated throughout BC, and
should be welcomed by industry and government.
The fact that two years after Tsilhqot'in the topic
of working with First Nations and moving forward from
Tsilhqot'in took centre stage at a mining conference
is evidence of the power First Nations hold to lead British
Columbia in the coming decades.
Thank you to Minerals North
and everyone who participated. We look forward to seeing you
again next year.
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