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First Nations need to get to "Yes" to shape and benefit from unprecedented economic opportunities in resource development

Hon. Jim Prentice, Vice Chairman of CIBC, says growth and jobs must be achieved with an unblinking focus and commitment to the environment

WHITEHORSE, July 17, 2013 /CNW/ - CIBC (TSX: CM) (NYSE: CM) - First Nations have an unprecedented opportunity to shape and benefit from the next wave of nation-building in Canada but need to decide whether to be participants or observers, says the Honorable Jim Prentice, Senior Executive Vice-President and Vice Chairman of CIBC.

Mr. Prentice believes it is imperative that First Nations find a way to take advantage of these opportunities and get involved as partners. "Personally, I favour getting to 'Yes.' Today, thanks to our abundance of natural resources, we stand on the verge of a new era of growth and development. No other country in the world is bringing on energy projects at the pace or on the scale of Canada.

"We are talking about hundreds of billions of dollars in major resource developments that are currently - or will be - taking place on or near Aboriginal communities. It is national in nature. It is substantial in scope. And in many cases it represents a game-changing opportunity for First Nations."

He notes that First Nations are increasingly becoming partners in energy and resource projects from coast-to-coast and these initiatives are generating economic benefits for their communities. But he adds that with some 400,000 Aboriginal youth entering the job market over the decade the need to find more economic opportunities will intensify, as will the need to invest in the future of Aboriginal youth.

"But let me be clear: I'm not talking about irresponsible development," says Mr. Prentice. "This isn't a tradeoff. It's not about securing short-term economic benefits at the expense of our natural heritage.

"Rather, we must place environmental issues at the very centre of what we do. As a former Minister of Environment, I know better than most that First Nations have for centuries stood as proud defenders of our environment. I would never counsel, and you would never consider, a short-sighted approach in which the principles of safety and sustainability would be sacrificed for fleeting financial advantage. Growth and jobs must be achieved not merely with a nod to environmental safety and protection, but with an unblinking focus and commitment."

He told delegates at the Assembly of First Nations 34th Annual General Assembly in Whitehorse that if they decide to pursue these opportunities it is important to do so with common purpose and laid out a number of key components to reach agreement.

  • Move expeditiously to the negotiating table with industry to represent your own interests.
  • Understand the need to move beyond consultation. Once you sit down, the objective is to achieve sustainable economic participation. The duty to consult and accommodate was created as a way to get to 'Yes,' not as a way to get to 'No.' It was created to assist First Nations in extracting meaningful economic participation from those decisions. Consultation must progress to negotiation, and negotiation must maintain a meaningful direction and a positive momentum.
  • In some cases, getting to 'Yes' means working together. On its own, any one First Nation there is relevant. But collectively, they are a force.
  • Retain good advisors. In any major project, the people on the other side of the table will represent some of the world's most successful, best capitalized and most sophisticated corporations. You need tough-minded bankers, commercial lawyers and negotiators.
  • In some cases, pursue equity ownership in addition to Access and Benefit Agreements. There are advantages to being an owner. Owners, for example, have more say in the many decisions surrounding the project, including those relating to the environment.

"The decisions you will make hold the potential to create new paths to prosperity; new opportunities for Aboriginal businesses to flourish; new stories of success and achievement; and long-term sustainability for generations to come," adds Mr. Prentice.

A copy of Mr. Prentice's speech is available at:

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