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Letter: Inflammatory article unfair to First Nations

|Written By Michael McClurg

This letter is in response to a recent article by Ian Harvey entitled “First Nations have iron grip on Ontario’s economy” published by Law Times on Aug. 5. I found this article troubling for a number of reasons.

First, it is factually inaccurate. I was one of Wahgoshig First Nation’s legal counsel for the injunction that it obtained against Solid Gold Resources Corp. The article describes the injunction as having been overturned on appeal. In fact, no appeal of the injunction decision was ever heard. Rather Solid Gold was granted leave to appeal the injunction decision and the Divisional Court subsequently found the appeal moot and declined to hear it. The motion judge’s decision granting the injunction remains good law in Ontario.

Second, rather than speaking to a current member of Solid Gold’s board of directors, Harvey chose to interview Darryl Stretch, the former president of the company, whom the article describes as having been ousted from his position. In the article, Stretch refers to First Nations as “hostile third-party governments.” In my view, this is inflammatory language that does not serve to assist the reader in better understanding the situation. One is left wondering why the author did not seek out the perspective of the company and the industry association, the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, for this piece.

Finally, and perhaps most troublingly, it is very disappointing that Law Times would publish an article alleging that First Nations have an iron grip on Ontario resources without providing any perspective from a representative of a First Nation. The article gives the impression that First Nations are outsiders to the rest of Ontario that need to be feared and placated lest they destroy the economy. The author openly questions whether some First Nations will hold the province hostage economically. This highly problematic image of First Nations as the feared other is compounded by the lack of an indigenous perspective in the article.

There is a long and sorry history in Canada of one-sided commentary about First Nations and their interests that excludes any First Nation’s voice. This commentary continues that outdated approach.

Readers of Law Times expect and enjoy the provocative and sometimes controversial content that it provides. However, readers also expect that Law Times will observe the journalistic standards of fairness and accuracy by providing the subjects of its pieces with an opportunity to respond and comment and by fact-checking. Unfortunately, in my view, this article fell below those standards.

The overall tone of this piece was disappointing. Rather than having an iron grip on the economy, First Nations are beginning to take a long-overdue and constitutionally guaranteed seat at the table. The future of resource development in Ontario hinges on a process of respectful dialogue between the Crown, industry, and First Nations. It also requires the development of an equal partnership between the Crown and First Nations. This factually inaccurate article featuring inflammatory rhetoric and excluding indigenous voices arguably sets back the processes of respectful dialogue. It also fails to reflect the evolution of jurisprudence in Canada that has emphasized the need for reconciliation and respect.

Michael McClurg,

Olthuis Kleer Townshend LLP

Toronto

  • Northern guy
    Reply #2:
    I hope you all realize that supporting decisions like the one against solid gold smear Ontario's legacy as a natural resource leader. Companies no longer see this province as a place to explore, invest, and produce (which create jobs and maintain a sustainable economy) -- they see it as a place to avoid because of the cost and TIME they have to invest before they see any return of investment.

    I am so disappointed with the lack of support for resource companies in the last decade. These are the companies that employ you, your sons and daughters, your friends and neighbours and sustain your economy.
    M.McClurg go away before you put this province more in debt
  • Northern guy
    Honestly, I think FN have gone out of control here, and I blame the policy makers of southern Ontario for giving them the power to do so. For the most part, issues like these are a northern issue and policy makers have a fatal misunderstanding of North. Jobs in the north are ultimately DEPENDENT upon natural resources.
  • Darryl Stretch
    Well Michael McClurg you have had a month to respond by posting the relevant statute as referred to herein and you did not do it because you know that Ontario and FN had no legal authority to make any demand on Solid Gold

    Slimy spin doctor.
  • Darryl Stretch
    Respectfully: 5
    The record also shows that your firm was improperly communicating with the Crown during the action without notifying Solid Gold. Did WFN abandon its claim against Ontario for the provinces shameful assistance in destroying the company? We now know that WFN and agents for Ontario acted together in a hostile takeover attempt on Solid Gold.

    In closing, I believe that Canada's social fabric will disintegrate when aboriginals are granted a special right to discriminate by deciding who works and when on Crown land. In an equal society since when does one special interest group get first crack at the jobs and since when does government have the authority to obligate one business to finance and provide stategic corporate information to a competitor.
  • Allan McLaren
    Excuse me! Crown land? Who's land?? and also, special interest group??? Enough said!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Lorraine Johnson
    Darryl Stretch: There is nothing wrong with wanting all Canadians to have enough. What you failed to mention when you say that FN get 'first crack at jobs' is that the % of trained FN employees is significantly lower and their populations are significantly lower than 'other canadians'. What harm is done to the 'social fabric of canada' when ensuring that these disenfranchised folks get what they need to live decent lives? What harm is done when corps making millions and billions have to give a little back to OUR SOCIAL FABRIC!! It's now called social license to operate and WE THE PEOPLE insist on it. Get with the times Darryl Stretch!!
  • ore kid
    racism - a two edged sword
  • Darryl Stretch
    Respectfully: 4

    The hostility, slander, defamation and irreparable harm flowing from the illegal actions taken against Solid Gold and its shareholders by Ontario and the WFN is palpable in the public record.

    Sir, contrary to your assertion, Mr. Harvey did give Bill Gallagher his say. Correct me if I am wrong but isn't he the First Nations current number one spin doctor?

    In a effort to provide further prospective and balance from a representative of a First Nation I note that your firm believes that Ontario acted to obstruct Solid gold. http://wahgoshigfirstnation.com/assets/files/News%20Release.pdf
  • Darryl Stretch
    Respectfully: 3
    Now, ask yourself if the following appears to be a little hostile – a little inflammatory perhaps?
    http://sovereigntytour.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/IMG00199-20111106-1104-1024x764.jpg

    -- or this -- staged hours before a Solid Gold presentation to the Ontario Prospectors Association in November 2012.
    http://video.nipawinjournal.com/video/featured/latest/1785168890001/wahgoshig-first-nation/1954392705001

    I was not surprised that no media, no politician, no opposition or public advocate challenged the erroneous claims made by the WFN.
  • Darryl Stretch
    Respectfully: 2
    Today, the Federal Government of Canada states that;
    “Canada has statutory, contractual and common law obligations to consult with Aboriginal Groups" and "The common law duty to consult is based on judicial interpretation of the obligations
    of the Crown (federal, provincial and territorial governments) in relation to potential or established Aboriginal or Treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada, recognized and affirmed in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. The duty cannot be delegated to third parties.” http://www.ceaa.gc.ca/050/documents_staticpost/cearref_21799/83452/Vol1_-_Part06.pdf
    Simply put, Ontario and the WFN acted against the shareholders of Solid Gold, absent the authority of law. If such is untrue, I invite you or anyone to post here any statute which obligates third parties (the public) to accept liability for constitutional matters prior to April 1, 2013.
  • Darryl Stretch
    Respectfully: 1

    Fact checkers knock yourself out --

    Mr. McClurg,
    Together lets set the record straight. The Wahgoshig First Nation (WFN) filed a Notice of Claim on Ontario and Solid Gold based on Ontario’s alleged constitutional breach of aboriginal right. Ontario acknowledges that it had a duty to the WFN that was not met. However the Province asserted that it delegated its duty to Solid Gold and that the Company failed to carry out the duty. On that basis the Court ordered against Ontario and Solid Gold. On a subsequent application for appeal brought by Solid Gold, the Court found that Ontario had no legal authority to delegate its constitutional duty to Solid Gold. Neither Ontario nor the WFN appealed that finding. That too then is "good law", and both the WFN and Ontario are now stuck with it.
  • allen deleary
    Thank you OKT for a well written letter that challenges the fear mongering. As a First Nations professional, that has worked with my communities for over thirty years, in light of consultation and accommodation, we are far from having an iron grip on any economic development in the province of Ontario, let alone Canada. Perhaps, Mr. Harvey, if he must make such erroneous allegations and further, if the Law Times allows such specious speculation, perhaps, both the Times and Mr. Harvey could spin tales on ambulance chasing or other stereotypical behaviour consigned to the legal profession.
  • Allan McLaren
    So true, it is this kind of fear mongering that has alienated the Canadian public and has fostered disrespect and prejudice. Government and media also do not promote good relations with First Nations and always set us in a "adversarial" light. If all parties would take a step back and maybe put themselves in our shoes then they may find a better perspective, one of mutual respect and equitable sharing of resources, thus a fair and prosperous life for all. If people can't see this, then take a further step back.
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