The Macdonald-Laurier Institute is highlighting its authors’ work on some of the major public policy issues going into this year’s federal election campaign. Today, MLI Senior Fellows Ken Coates and Dwight Newman examine Aboriginal affairs
OTTAWA, July 31, 2015 – The 2015 federal election is shaping up to feature Aboriginal affairs more prominently than past campaigns. A slew of Aboriginal candidates have declared for the election and groups such as the Assembly of First Nations have promised to put Aboriginal issues front and centre.
What are the major public policy questions that will play out during the campaign?
The Macdonald-Laurier Institute has emerged as a thought leader on Aboriginal issues in recent years, thanks to the work of Senior Fellows Ken Coates and Dwight Newman.
Among the issues likely to come up on the campaign trail:
- Natural resources: Aboriginal engagement with the Northern Gateway pipeline and other projects has been top of mind in recent years. Newman, in a paper published earlier this year, showed that First Nations and other indigenous groups have won a significant amount of leverage through the courts. But, he warns, they also need to be careful about overplaying their hand. Whichever party forms the next government will still have the power to cancel approval for Northern Gateway, so understanding what’s at stake will be important.
- Aboriginal prosperity: All the parties have ideas aimed at improving the fortunes of Aboriginal Canadians. Coates argues that resource revenue sharing – taking a portion of the money provinces and territories earn from natural resource projects and sharing it with Aboriginal groups – is an important piece of this puzzle. In a January 2015 paper, Coates says that resource revenue sharing agreements have two main benefits: 1) They are an ideal way to compensate First Nations groups for the use of their lands, and 2) They help win the necessary support from Aboriginals that makes possible continued natural resource development.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission: The recently-concluded commission made a big splash with its recommendations on how to improve the fortunes of Aboriginal people in Canada. Coates, in an op-ed in the National Post, welcomed the conclusions of the commission but said getting real traction will require solutions coming from Aboriginal groups rather than governments.
- Missing and murdered Aboriginal women: The danger that Aboriginal women in Canada face is unacceptable, writes Ken Coates. But, in a National Post column from earlier this year, he says a national inquiry is not the answer.
Dwight Newman is a Senior Fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and is a professor of Law and the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Rights in Constitutional and International Law at the University of Saskatchewan.
Ken Coates is a Senior Fellow with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and Canada Research Chair in Regional Innovation in the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Saskatchewan.
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