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Jason Batise, Craig Brown, Jason Gauthier and Francis Kavanaugh spoke about their experiences negotiating revenue-sharing agreements with Indigenous communities, the provincial government and corporations at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada’s annual convention on March 5. (Karen McKinley photo) Several Ontario Indigenous chiefs say revenue-sharing agreements will be good for all communities in Northern Ontario because the First Nations are major supporters of businesses in the region.

And the provincial government says it is ready and waiting for the next proposal from communities.

Revenue-sharing agreements have taken a more significant role in recent years as mining and forestry companies seek to harvest resources from Indigenous lands.

It was a hot topic at the 2019 convention of the Prospectors and Developers Association (PDAC) in Toronto. Several panels were dedicated to discussing personal experiences, legal frameworks and the benefits and challenges associated with them.

One held on March 5 looked specifically at the work done between Indigenous communities in Northern Ontario and the government to ensure fair agreements.

The panel included Jason Batise, executive director of the Wabun Tribal Council ; Craig Brown, acting assistant deputy minister in the policy division of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry ; Jason Gauthier, chief of the Missanabie Cree First Nation ; and Francis Kavanaugh, Ogichidaa (Grand Chief) of the Anishinaabe Nation in Treaty 3.

Grand Chief Kavanaugh said he viewed resource sharing as the actualization of the Great Earth Law, and their system of government is organized to promote sound business practices.

"We live in a land rich with natural resources in Northern Ontario," he said. "A lot of the resources are extracted that are ones that operate the governments in Ontario. So in terms of our council, we are a modern-day corporate entity."

He explained Treaty No. 3 includes a council of 28 chiefs from two provinces – Ontario and Manitoba – and covers 5,000 square miles.

In all, there are three resource revenue sharing agreements with Wabun, Treaty 3, and Musheguok, totalling 32 First Nations.

He pointed to how Indigenous communities support the economy of northwestern Ontario and how they used it as part of the bargaining process. When the Trans-Canada Highway bypass was completed 35 years ago north of Kenora , there was much speculation that cutting the city off of the main highway would mean the city would become a ghost town.

Kavanaugh said he reminded officials that there are 10 First Nations near the city. Every week there were waves of people coming to the city to do business and run errands due to it being a major service centre for the region.

"This is money businesses used to restock, pay bills, staff," he said. "They are a driving force."

They still continue to support the city, as the lumber mill closed, businesses moved away and government services relocated. Those vacant spaces are being bought up and run by First Nations.

Once the new sharing agreement comes into effect this fall, Kavanaugh said it will be an economic boom to the area.

Batise focused on a historic resource-sharing model negotiated the province and the six Indigenous communities Wabun Tribal Council represents , stating it addressed the long history of those Indigenous communities not benefitting from the century-old mining and forestry in the area around Timmins and Kirkland Lake. Mills are still operating after more than 100 years. These agreements were a reconciliation of a lot of inequality and allowed them to finally gain a stable financial foothold."For decades, we saw the wealth of the area heading south to Bay Street and other places, and we wondered why we were so poor," he said. "These are stepping stones for our communities."Batise […]

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