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Fontaine: First Nations attitudes shifting on resource development

CALGARY — The former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations says attitudes are shifting amongst aboriginal people when it comes to resource development.

Phil Fontaine says that 20-years ago the idea of an aboriginal community going into business with the mining or oil and gas industry would have been unheard of.

But now, he told an energy and the environment conference in Calgary, resource companies and First Nations frequently discuss equity stakes or joint venture deals and many see working with the private sector as a “viable option.”

That’s not to say the road ahead will always be smooth. Fontaine says industry players must acknowledge First Nations have the right to say no to resource projects on their land.

Earlier this week, Ottawa gave the green light to Enbridge Inc.’s contentious Northern Gateway oil pipeline through B.C., which several First Nations in that province have vowed to fight in court.

Fontaine has been working with another major pipeline player, TransCanada Corp., on winning support for its Alberta-to-New Brunswick Energy East proposal.

 
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