Trudeau denies Lametti made 'dangerous and divisive' comments on natural resource development

On April 5, Federal Justice Minister David Lametti said he would not take an 'uncontroversial' course of action to ensure Indigenous consultations on natural resource development.

Trudeau denies Lametti made 'dangerous and divisive' comments on natural resource development
The Canadian Press / Paul Daly
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During a Wednesday press conference, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed how Ottawa would guarantee Indigenous consultations on developing natural resources moving forward. 

"First Nations leaders in the prairie provinces are becoming increasingly alarmed at their governments' actions concerning natural resources and exerting their assumed authority. They want a place at the table. What can you do to assure them that they'll be heard in any consultations?" posed an APTN News reporter to Trudeau.

"As a federal government, we have been very clear that reconciliation is an essential priority, not just for Canada as a moral imperative, but as the right thing to do for our country to fix and counter generations of colonial and extraordinarily damaging practices," responded the prime minister. 

"It's also about building a strong economy for the future as we look to develop the critical minerals and natural resources needed for the coming years, as we look to build a stronger future with great jobs across the country."

After meeting with Indigenous leaders on April 5, federal Justice Minister David Lametti said he will consider revoking the Natural Resources Transfer Agreement with the Prairie provinces.

"Those resources were given to provinces without ever asking one Indian if it was okay to do that or what benefits would the First Nations expect to receive by Canada consenting to that arrangement," said Chief R. Donald Maracle of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte.

"Canada inherited rights and obligations…from the imperial treaties made with our people…We see that as foundational in our rights…being consulted on any benefit," said Maracle.

Lametti commented he would not take an "uncontroversial" course of action. The prime minister denied that the justice minister made those comments.

Instead, Trudeau reaffirmed Ottawa's commitment to the tenets of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP). "We will continue to work with provinces to ensure that they are also moving forward on the path of reconciliation," he said.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe outright condemned Lametti on Monday, stating they would defend the jurisdiction of their respective provinces as enshrined in the constitution.

On Tuesday, Manitoba Premier Stefanson condemned Lametti's "reckless comments," which "[threatened] Manitoba's control over natural resources." She said they needed to be immediately withdrawn.

"The recent suggestion that the federal government will look at rescinding constitutional Natural Resource Transfer Agreements from the 1930s with Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta is another example of divisive disregard for the prairie provinces," added Stefanson.

Each premier agreed Lametti needed to rescind his "dangerous and divisive" comments. 

"The federal government cannot unilaterally change the constitution. They should not even be considering stripping resource rights away from the three prairie provinces," reads a joint statement by the prairie premiers.

A reporter asked Trudeau Wednesday if he thought it appropriate to review the agreements and how he would address the concerns raised by the prairie premiers.

"The Minister of Justice said no such thing," replied the prime minister. "If you look at his remarks, it is [obvious] that we're talking about the importance of the federal government living up to our responsibilities [to consult Indigenous Peoples]."

He accused the premiers of "elevating fears" with "absolutely no grounding in truth." 

"This is something that, unfortunately, we've seen conservative politicians across the country not take seriously as our moral or economic responsibilities would require."

"We know we need to move forward in true reconciliation and partnership with Indigenous peoples, and that's something we certainly hope…to work on with the premiers and with Indigenous peoples to grow the economy and create great jobs, including in natural resources…as we move towards a net zero world."

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