Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Disenfranchisement of Rural Communities

Management of natural resources has disproportionately fallen into the hands of experts (the civil servants) that have no direct connection the land or the natural resources. They do not need to consider the implications to the communities in which the decisions play out.

When one compares this to someone that operates a small one town mill operation, they have a social license with the community “I can not screw up because everyone can find me and lynch me” There is a stronger interest/incentive to keep the jobs going because the investment the small owner has in the town.

No one is saying to MoF or MoE “Oh don’t make the decision because you are going to have a negative impact on the small town”

Where is the social license of the government to be allowed to extract the tax value form the land?

To have engagement of the community in a meaningful manner in how the decisions are made in relation to natural resources you have to get the people that have the real decision making power – forest industry and mining industry executives in downtown Vancouver and the civil servants to engage with the communities. You need to have them live in the small rural towns, they have to engage with the First Nations – get out the board rooms, get onto the land. Given our technology today, there is no earthly reason to base any of the resource companies in Vancouver (if you think capital markets are the reason, then you have to remember the money people are in Calgary now as part of that flight of big money and investors during the NDP era)

There is no relevant reason for a company like Alcan not to be based out of Kitimat In the case of Lillooet, there is no earthly reason what Ainsworth could not be based in Lillooet instead of downtown Vancouver. Ainsworth did start off with a couple of Ainsworth brother’s being gypo loggers in the Cariboo, but they became West Vancouverites.

Most people see First Nations as having had significant input into land use decisions over the last years and yes it has improved, but it is not because industry or government wanted to do First Nations any favours - it is because the First Nations have fought tooth and nail to get something, anything. This has meant going to the courts to get the decisions that give them the rights to make government pay attention

Every small town across this province should be sending letters of thanks and letters to support to the First Nations leaders that have taken the risk and pushed the issue against all the government and corporate might. These decisions on consultation with First Nations will also apply to the rest to the rural residents. The First Nations decisions set the stage for a new era in consultation with all rural residents and all people out there

Consultation is more than just letting people know what you are doing, it is process to get your information out in manner that is understandable with those that you are consulting with and then taking the comments that come back in making use of them or justifying why you would not use them. It is an iterative process that promotes an interest based approach and not a positional one.

Unfortunately government has rarely had any interest in consultation because it will not give people the information that they need, will not show how input is used and comes from a purely positional basis. That classic We have out statuary decision maker – we can not fetter the minister and bullshit like that. If it is wrong, it is wrong, it is wrong. Moving us into this feudal model is utterly wrong where we the residents of rural communities, aboriginal and non aboriginal have no ability to have any proper say or input into our land is fundamentally wrong. We have become feudal like serfs on our own land and this is message the First Nations have been trying to tell people for 100 years. And I think in the last few years rural communities are beginning to learn the harsh truth themselves.

The plight of First Nations is the same plight of rural communities – there is a common cause of disempowerment and disenfranchisement from any meaningful input into land use planning

We need to have the rural communities and First Nations go out and reclaim the land.

There has to be a fundamentally respectful and two way process.

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