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.

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