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Alberta’s Environment Minister misses the point on consultation

The fact is this plan was crafted behind closed doors, and drafted outside of Alberta’s legislated planning process. First Nations were not consulted prior to the plan’s release, despite all of the Minister’s high-minded rhetoric.

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Karamarie Barker Montreal QC
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To Shannon Phillips’ line of thinking we should be flattered, yet all I feel is growing sadness and frustration.

Last week, Alberta’s Environment Minister announced her government held “nation-to-nation meetings” with indigenous leaders regarding her plan for new parks and tourism development in the Bighorn region.

Upon closer inspection, however, it seems evident that Shannon Phillips’ job title should be changed to Minister of Hyperbole. In reality, one of Phillip’s so-called consultations involved a 10-minute phone call with two band councillors.

This was at least the third time the Minister has been caught telling tall tales when it comes to the controversial Bighorn consultations. Who can forget Phillips’ decision to cancel and reschedule information session over unsubstantiated claims of safety concerns, or her false claims about open RCMP investigations?

When it comes to the Bighorn plan, all Albertans including our indigenous communities are right to demand answers.

The fact is this plan was crafted behind closed doors, and drafted outside of Alberta’s legislated planning process. First Nations were not consulted prior to the plan’s release, despite all of the Minister’s high-minded rhetoric. Is it any wonder that so many indigenous Albertans are now protesting alongside other neighbouring community members, demanding a voice in the process?

Will the Minister attempt to railroad this plan through the legislative process prior to this spring’s general election? Only she can answer that question.

All I know for sure is that this government has once again completely missed the point when it comes to one of this world’s most basic concepts: Partnership.

Like all Albertans, our leaders, our elders, and our communities deserve honest, meaningful consultation. We do not need or want great government leaders to breeze into town and tell us what is good for us. We do not need them to impose their wisdom. Instead, like all Albertans, we deserve to be heard before decisions are made.

As a proud indigenous Albertan of Cree heritage and a candidate in this year’s provincial election, my first commitment is to always listen to the people before making decisions that have real consequences for our families and our communities.

This entire Bighorn fiasco leaves me wondering, why won’t Alberta’s Environment Minister do the same?

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