First Nations Wants Legal Protections from Mining

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Urges the provincial government to clarify its revenue-sharing program.

The top leader of Canada's Assembly of First Nations, National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, Tuesday announced the organization's support for a Harvard Law study calling for legal reform to protect British Columbia First Nations from mining interests.

The report, Bearing the Burden: The Effects of Mining on First Nations in British Columbia, authored by the International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) at Harvard, calls for legal reform "that ensures government, industry and First Nations more fairly share the benefits and burdens of mining."

IHRC Instructor Bonnie Docherty, who authored the report, called on British Columbia "to shift its presumptions about mining. The aboriginal rights of First Nations should be considered alongside the interests of the mining industry."

Docherty calls federal and provincial governments to provide more funding for independent studies about mining impacts. She also suggested legislation should incorporate "explicit reference to aboriginal rights."

The BC Government should require mining companies to submit human rights impact assessments in addition to environmental impact assessments prior to beginning a mining project, the report suggested.

The province should also ensure "that the interests of First Nations are adequately represented in decision-making regarding mining activity on First Nations' land."

Docherty urges the provincial government to clarify its revenue-sharing program "and encourage mining companies to undertake revenue-sharing plans and increase employment programs with First Nations."

Mining companies should "increase consultation efforts with First Nations at all stages of the mining process," she added.

The study also urged First Nations to decide who would represent their communities in interact with mining companies and government officials.

The report also called upon First Nation to finish developing a land use plans "that identifies areas where it is willing to permit mining and areas where traditional uses or spiritual significance make mining unacceptable."

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