Investors beware of BC

Russ Francis recently wrote in Victoria’s Monday Magazine about recent political scandals and thier impact on investment into BC. While he provides interesting insights into the fallout from these scandals, he overlooks another underreported, but growing impediment to investment – unresolved Aboriginal Title and Rights.

Occasionally, the BC government of the day will pay lip service to this problem and announce some new token measure. Yet generally, all recent BC governments have relied on economic and political programs that give concessions to large corporate logging, mining and energy corporations that seek to extract resources from unceded land as quickly, cheaply and with as few regulatory obstacles as possible. column about the impact of the recent political scandals on investment

With behavior more reminiscent of an Ostrich than a fiduciary, the BC government and industry have ignored increasingly forceful direction from the courts (see descriptions of these cases), that First Nations have a proprietary interest in resources from their territories.

Resource companies have exploited this lack of knowledge of BC land politics and Aboriginal Title and Rights within the investment community by fialoing to disclose the potential impact of these ruling on their operations. Most companies continue to raise money by disclosing only half truths about rights granted to them in logging, mining and oil & gas tenures.

Conveniently, they do not disclose that that BC courts have ruled, that tenures granted or replaced without adequate consultation and accommodation of affected First Nations could be struck down as invalid” or “contain a fundamental legal defect.”

What could discourage investment more than the growing understanding amongst investors that tenures (the right to operate) are clouded by First Nations interests?

Despite the strengthening demands for more transparency in the financial markets – and increased disclosure requirements to investors – most logging and energy companies are not disclosing the growing potential liabilities to their operations resulting from unresolved land claims that overlap their tenures.

For example Interfor doesn’t appear to have informed its investors that the Tla-o-qui-aht are working with Dogwood Initiative to evict them. Neither has Canfor or Slocan informed investors of obstacles to their proposed merger resulting from recent case law.

Money talks, so Dogwood Initiative is working with a number of First Nations partners to correct these omissions. Understanding the potential impact of these recent court decisions on the investment climate, the BC Liberals have attempted to amend legislation to try to undermine these First Nation legal victories.

With the help of Dogwood Initiative and West Coast Environmental Law, a number of First Nations are preparing legal challenges to these pro-corporate, anti-native, anti-environmental legislative changes. Dogwood Initiative is also working with a growing network of First Nations from throughout the province to challenge individual logging and energy tenures, and begin to inform key investors of the potential to invalidate these licences. Stay tuned for more info about our successes.

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