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Environment and Natural Resources Project

The current aboriginal law framework for dealing with natural resources requires a substantial overhaul. All parties, especially Courts, but also First Nations, should place less emphasis on claims to extract resources (fisheries, timber, minerals, wildlife, etc) and more emphasis on traditional means of management of those resources.

This framework for dealing with aboriginal rights creates very powerful disincentives for a re-elaboration of traditional methods of sustainable development because it is focused solely on extractive practices. This focus creates a self-fulfilling stereotype of aboriginal nations as rapacious consumers of natural resources. It has never been so.

A focus on extraction rather than management undermines nationhood because it ignores the regulatory role exercised by our ancestors, and a role that ought to be exercised by aboriginal nations today.

The focus of this project will be to develop papers in support of realigning arguments in fisheries cases, mining cases and forestry cases to support recognition of a right to environmental self-determination. In addition, this project may critically examine existing environmental policy frameworks for application of traditional knowledge as well as consultation and accommodation for failings and successes in existing frameworks. The purpose of this research will be to support legal arguments that principles such as co-management already exist under Canadian law, and that recognition of indigenous science and jurisdiction leads to better environmental outcomes, rather than poor environmental management decisions.

This project would build on successful linkages which have already been developed between the environmental community and the aboriginal rights community by providing a unique perspective. Rather than using existing aboriginal or environmental law to advance the interests of First Nations, this project will focus on realigning aboriginal rights law to enhance recognition of aboriginal jurisdiction over natural resources. With a jurisdictional framework, First Nations would not be forced to prove rights to each resource every time a new project is proposed within their traditional territories, but would instead act as a regulator. This would enhance First Nation jurisdiction, while providing more speed and certainty to land use and resource allocation decisions.