Letter: Inflammatory article unfair to First Nations

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 This commentary continues that outdated approach.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

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