The Ring of Fire, Socials Op-Ed Aidan MacDonald

Who has Rights to the Ring of Fire?

Aidan MacDonald

Resources run the world; they control governments and dictate the distribution of power, which is why we’re struggling so hard against aboriginals in an attempt to gain access to resources that were found on their land. Aboriginals and “whites” have not been interacting on the nicest of terms even since Canada’s Confederation period, so it is no surprise that neither side is backing down when it comes to control of the Ring of Fire. Back when Canada was still forming as a country, aboriginals were treated as a second thought, and the primary focus was inhabiting their land to gain wealth, with none of the profit going back to the aboriginals. With an estimated worth being between 30-50 billion dollars, this is no longer a fight for simple farmland, even the largest of mining companies are putting their all into gaining territory in this mineral rich area. The obstacle which stands in their way takes the form of nine underprivileged First Nations groups. Although these groups could theoretically receive great rewards for their land, “Chronic housing shortages, low education outcomes and lack of access to clean drinking water jeopardize the ability of local First Nations to benefit from the significant economic, employment and business development opportunities associated with the Ring of Fire developments.” (Aboriginal affairs ring of fire briefing notes)

It is clear that the aboriginals rightfully own the land, and they have since Canada came to be. However, a line must be drawn somewhere as to how much control they are allowed to have on it. It would not be considered right for a group to horde materials that they are not using. Although the mining would be intrusive on their land, comprises could be met to make the benefits outweigh the downfalls. Some of the aboriginal chiefs have recognised it, also stating that the jobs opened by the mines would be of incredible help to fix their lack of schools and basic amenities. Another point to be brought up is that although in the past, aboriginals were violently pushed out of their land for European settlers to take resources, however this situation will likely be different since there are benefits being offered to the Aboriginals. This would be a much better scenario than the previous “destroy the obstacles, take their valuables” situation caused by settlers.

On the other side of the coin, the short time frame proposed for the mining project makes it difficult for the full benefits to be exploited by the aboriginals. During an interview for CBC, Deputy Grand Chief Les Louitt said “You talk about skills training. How are you going to educate and develop skills training within a period of two years in order to take advantage of construction?” This may be a large issue, but even so, there is still great importance for these mines to be put in place.

Should the aboriginals not be prepared for the construction phase, they can instead spend the time training to work in the mine after it has been opened, and use the large income to help springboard them out of poverty. Although the situation may not be ideal for them, they must be able to see compromises that can be made with the mining industry. You will almost always have to accept a solution halfway between what each party wants, and this is what the aboriginal population near the Ring of Fire needs to recognize.

It is also important for the Aboriginal population to look at how this can be beneficial for both sides. Chief Cornelius Wabasse stated in an interview for Windspeaker that “This will not only be good for us, but will also be good for the exploration companies to know the protocols for exploration on our mutual traditional lands.” This way, should the same companies want to collaborate with aboriginals in the future, they can know what to expect and how to treat them with respect.

Although there may be downfalls to the aboriginal chiefs letting mining companies into their land, they need to be able to see through the negative and look at all of the positive aspects. They are not in a position to take full advantage of the benefits, but even small rewards are needed to keep their population afloat. With any luck, more chiefs in the Ring of Fire will adopt view similar to Chief Wabasse, and allow for this profitable land to be used in Canada’s developments.

Document of learning, PLO B2

Although Canadians are often seen as some of the nicest people to grace this earth, many often fail to see how bad our past truly is. We don’t hesitate to point out the great things that our country brings such as free health care and nature all around us, but we never seem to talk about the damage caused to gain these great features.

Aboriginals lived here before other settlers came, that tends to be common knowledge. What we don’t like to discuss as much is the impact that we had on the Aboriginals. Looking at our Country now, and how we have such great multi-culturalism, you wouldn’t be predicting that we treated Aboriginals like dirt. However, when European settlers came to Canada, their first order of business was to rid the land of any Aboriginal inhabitants. From their perspective, it makes sense. They saw a lesser civilization which was taking up the land that they wanted, so they pushed them out of the way. Although without these acts having been committed, we may not be living in the Canada that we know and love today, but there could have been other options that would have given us the benefits we needed without the same degree of damage. Instead of forcibly pushing the Aboriginals away, we could have negotiated ways in which we could each conform to each other societies, and live out our lives in harmony.

Honestly, I’m disappointed with our country’s past. Although I do not believe that I hold any responsibility for damages committed in the past, I would feel much more comfortable living here had our past been a bit nicer. It almost feels wrong to claim pride in a nation that still had residential schools up until not very long ago. We built ourselves off of a railroad constructed through slavery; the land that we claim to now be an embodiment of strength and freedom in our anthem was stolen from those who lived here before us. Our past is all about fighting, when we now view ourselves as peace keepers. I still take pride in living in a country that I view as one of the best in the world, but needless to say, it stings to know how Canada has been constructed through the punishment of others for our own benefit.

 

However, there’s still more that I would like to know before making any assumptions about the past. We learned about the settlers treating the aboriginals poorly, however I didn’t hear about any peaceful negotiations made between the aboriginals and settlers. Although I know for sure that they treated the Aboriginals poorly, I would still like to learn more about any good reactions that they had. Perhaps there were more attempts made then we learned about, and the force they used later was a result of the Aboriginals not wanting to come to any agreements. Knowing this would allow me to feel more comfortable about our past, with the reassuring knowledge that we at least made SOME attempts at peaceful negotiations rather than going straight to the fighting.

I would also like to look more at how the land control imposed on the Aboriginals effected their resources and population. The Aboriginals were constricted to a very small mass of land, given their tendencies to move around in an effort to hunt buffalo. Because of their land being so restricted, they had less room to do this, and eventually they hunted enough buffalo in their given area that all the buffalo had moved into Canadian territory, where they were not allowed to hunt. I can see this causing the Aboriginal population to drop, due to a lack of resources, however I would still like to look at some sort of official documentation to solidify these thoughts.

Looking at the resource and population of Aboriginals would also be likely to help cover learning outcome B1, analysing Canadian society in terms of gender roles, ethnicity and daily life. Looking at how the resources would affect the population would also require me to look at how the Aboriginals lived from day to day, therefore covering the learning outcome. This would also help cover C2, which is analysing political, economic, social and geographical aspects that lead to the development of Canada’s territories and provinces. Learning more about the Aboriginal’s land restrictions would help me understand how it changed the development of Canada’s provinces. Manitoba was started because of the restrictions being placed on the Aboriginals, and it is still a thriving place today.

 

Our unit on the Canadian Confederation covered a large amount of information, but to me the most prominent is how poorly we treated others in the past. This unit has been an eye opening experience to say the least, and although there are still a few points that I would like to look more in-depth into, I feel as if we’ve covered enough to thoroughly understand the development of our country, and how far we’ve come as a society.