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COMMENTARY · 21st March 2012
Terrace Daily News
When asked to elaborate to reporters after his talk, Joe Oliver, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, said: “What we want to do is provide the economic opportunity to give them hope, to move them from despair to hope, where their youth can be employed, where people of all ages have an opportunity to have jobs that will provide them the chance to have a good, even a great, standard of living.”

“We’re very respectful of the traditional way of life of aboriginal communities. It’s up to them of course to preserve what they believe is worthy of preserving. We’re not taking a paternalistic approach in that regard. That’s their decision.

“But what these projects bring is an enhanced economic opportunity which doesn’t have to be inconsistent with some of their core values.”

Arnold Clifton, chief councillor of the Gitga’at First Nation, called the language “insulting.”

The Gitga’at oppose Enbridge Inc.’s $5.5-billion pipeline that would bring bitumen along northern B.C. to Kitimat for tankers that would go through Douglas Channel, where the Gitga’at are located.

“This language is insulting to first nations and the minister should apologize,” Clifton said in a news release. “This slip-of-the tongue shows stereotypes about first nations people are alive and well in the federal government and it helps explain why this government has such a mistrustful and dysfunctional relationship with aboriginal communities.”

Marilyn Baptiste, chief of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation, which opposes Taseko’s $1-billion New Prosperity mine near Williams Lake, also found the wording upsetting.

Canada has endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which promises to respect indigenous rights and eliminate racial discrimination, Baptiste said.

“Yet B.C. and Canada are continuing to move forward [with] business as usual,” she said. “Furthermore they are changing processes, acts and legislation for the sake of industry and removing protections to the environment, fish and their habitat. That’s not acceptable.”

Pierre Gratton, president and CEO of the Mining Association of Canada, called the minister’s choice of words “unfortunate.”

Read the entire article by the Vancouver Sun Here:

Read about Joe Olivers election victory here