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Development of natural resources: Aboriginal communities as business partners

Montreal, March 19, 2015 – While the Quebec government was giving the green light this week to the development of the Arnaud Mine project near Sept-Îles, on the North Shore, opponents and supporters alike wasted no time making their voices heard. On what basis can we move forward on these debates surrounding natural resource development projects? Do any agreements exist that can satisfy all the parties?

An Economic Note published today by the MEI shows that certain collaboration models, notably the one involving the Cree, encourage and facilitate resource development in Quebec’s north while respecting Aboriginal communities and forming partnerships with them.

The study describes certain recent cases in which different Aboriginal communities have a financial interest in the economic success of a mining or other development project. This can occur through stock ownership, as with the Cree community of Nemaska that holds shares in a mining project in the James Bay region, or the Mi’kmaq communities that are partners in a windfarm project in the Gaspé Peninsula. Other agreements between businesses and communities are based on mechanisms for the sharing of revenues with the community, for example through royalties that will grow as a function of a mine’s production or of profits earned.

“Debates about natural resource development are too often centred on conflicts between the government, local communities, and businesses. Yet there are models that could serve as an example for future projects, especially that of the Cree since the signing of the “Paix des Braves” agreement. The more that local communities have a stake in development projects, the more there is a convergence of interests for all the parties involved, and the greater are these projects’ chances of success,” says David Descôteaux, the author of the publication.

In the coming years, many communities in Quebec’s north could benefit from mining development. This territory covers 72% of the province and contains over 120,000 inhabitants, including 33,000 Aboriginals belonging to four Nations: the Cree and Inuit in the Northern Quebec region, and the Naskapi and Innu living in the North Shore region.

“The economic dynamism of the Cree, who enjoy a high standard of living among Aboriginal communities, is not the result of random chance. It is their openness to resource development that explains, at least in part, the prosperity of this Nation. This is a model that could serve as a source of inspiration for all Aboriginal communities,” concludes David Descôteaux.

The Economic Note entitled “The Cree and the Development of Natural Resources” was prepared by David Descôteaux, Public Policy Analyst at the MEI. This publication is available on our website.

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The Montreal Economic Institute is an independent, non-partisan, not-for-profit research and educational organization. Through its studies and its conferences, the MEI stimulates debate on public policies in Quebec and across Canada by proposing wealth-creating reforms based on market mechanisms.

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Interview requests: Mariam Diaby, Communications Director, Montreal Economic Institute / Tel.: 514-273-0969 ext. 2231 / Cell.: 514-668-3063 / Email: mdiaby@iedm.org

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