Saskatchewan First Nations groups are becoming quite aggressive with resource development on their lands; the provincial and federal governments may see these development proposals as a solution to on-reserve poverty through greater first nation participation in the economy.
It will be interesting to see how federal and provincial governments respond to these proposals. In past proposals, the provincial government has indicated they are supportive of joint-ventures between private firms and First Nations groups. Although, First Nations leaders have stated they intend to seek greater autonomy from government in the development of their resources as a way to ensure royalty dollars derived from these projects are committed to First Nations communities and programs.
First Nations make oilsands deal
FSIN to discuss recent Taiwanese trade mission at news conference
Jon Harding, Canwest News Service
Published: Wednesday, July 23, 2008
A fledgling oilsands venture in Saskatchewan involving four First Nations communities and Taiwanese refining giant CPC Corp. will "freeze up" a relatively small swath of 20,000 hectares of prospective oilsands land along the Alberta-Saskatchewan border before the end of the year.
The curious joint venture, details of which have been trickling out since last week, will be highlighted again Thursday at a news conference in Saskatoon.
At the news conference, Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) Chief Lawrence Joseph is expected to discuss a recent trade mission to Taiwan that led to three separate memorandums of understanding between Taiwanese business interests and Saskatchewan First Nations, representing a total of roughly $1 billion worth of future trade and investment.
Included among them is the oilsands agreement involving government controlled CPC Corp. and Beardy's and Okemasis First Nation of Duck Lake north of Saskatoon, Flying Dust First Nation of Meadow Lake, Witchekan Lake First Nation and Cowessess First Nation.
The four Native groups will bypass the Saskatchewan government's normal exploration rights auction process and lock up the land they need through the Treaty Land Entitlement program.
None of the four groups has used the entire breadth of their land allotments under the 1976 deal that gave Saskatchewan's First Nation communities $500 million to buy 400,000 hectares of unoccupied Crown land, including subsurface resource rights.
Another six Saskatchewan First Nation groups, which also have the option to secure land through the program, have been invited into the oilsands venture, with the intention to secure as many as 50,000 hectares in total.
"It's the whole crux of the joint venture," Ken Thomas of Saskatoon said Tuesday.
The former FSIN negotiator brokered the agreement. CPC has agreed to spend as much as $800 million of its own money to acquire leases and explore for oilsands resources in Saskatchewan.
Land nominated through the Treaty Land Entitlement program is frozen for up to 18 months to give the Saskatchewan government enough time to assess its value.
Meanwhile, Thomas said CPC is partnering with First Nations because the company is "aware" of friction that has flared up from time to time between oilsands players on both sides of the border and Native groups.
"It's insurance for them," Thomas said.
"They are also kind of looking for a local guide, someone who can pick up the phone and call the premier or the minister of energy, what have you. The chiefs can do that."
© The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2008