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Canadian Mining Journal Sparks Lively Debate on Aboriginal Rights

Last week, Marilyn Scales wrote an opinion piece in the Canadian Mining Journal in which she called for aboriginal people to participate in compromises around the preservation of ‘wilderness’ and development of industry. She wrote:

Somewhere between preserving the wilderness as it was and exploiting it for modern conveniences, there is a compromise. That compromise will include cleaner technologies, better remediation, education and skilled jobs for Canadians regardless of their ethnicity. Compromise is not reached by confrontation.

The piece sparked such a response that Scales felt compelled to publish several of the emails. By her own admission, the responses were mostly well-thought and in the vein of polite agreement or opposition. For example:

The article misses a critical element of the issue, which is the significant risks these types of developments pose to the social and cultural fabrics of Aboriginal life. For more than a decade, Aboriginal peoples have been raising the alarm over impacts such as increased drug and alcohol use, loss of connection to spiritual areas, loss of traditional foods and medicines, increased economic disparity, higher rates of crime and violence, etc. There is a growing body of evidence that clearly shows the link between major development and social and cultural consequences (David Hill).

The odd confrontational email did arrive:

The days of you morons running rough-shod over peoples’ rights in this country are numbered. As far as I’m concerned, we should take all your mining equipment and dump it into one of the big holes you’ve created in this country. OH! By the way I’m white. You people are scum.

Surely future debates concerning aboriginal rights and responsibilities will continue to revolve around land and resources; they have for generations already. The reconciliation of a colonial past with contemporary social problems in native communities will depend largely on the transfer of land to native groups. The discussion initiated by Marilyn Scales’ is an important part of the process of change for the betterment of all.

(Alternate link here via the Union of BC Indian Chiefs)

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