Monday, January 14, 2008

Federal Government names key negotiator for First Nations concerns over Fairview Port development

Lawrence Cannon, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities hailed his appointment as “another step towards achieving our government's commitment to a timely long-term solution to First Nations concerns with Prince Rupert's container terminal projects."

David Emerson, who wore his trio of hats of Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics, emphasized the partnership aspect of future development for Fairview. "Partnership was key to the new terminal being built and itwill continue to drive the development of the Port of Prince Rupert in the future."

While Chuck Strahl, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for M├ętis and Non-Status Indians got to the job at hand by outlining Mr. Eyford’s duties while tasked by the Federal Government. “He will be responsible for helping resolve outstanding issues with First Nations. Our government is committed to negotiating a fair and balanced agreement that will provide access to economic opportunities and benefits for local First Nations, their neighbours and all Canadians."

Mr. Eyford is a litigation partner with a Vancouver law firm and has specialized in practicing in civil litigation and alternative dispute resolution. He would appear to bring a great deal of experience in these types of negotiations, so his appointment perhaps could be viewed as a positive step forward in the process.

He has most recently been employed with the Federal Government’s acting as a chief federal negotiator. He brings a long list of experience in arbitration, mediation and consultation in both British Columbia and Manitoba.

The Fairview Port dispute has centered around First Nations concerns about accommodation and consultation regarding further development of Phases II and beyond of the Container terminal.

First made public back in May of 2007 during the construction of the first phase, the issue has been working its way through the Federal courts over the last year or so.

The appointment of a federal negotiator perhaps signals the intent of the Federal Government to speed up the process and bring some final resolution to the dispute, before the issues become a potential roadblock to future development of the port.

It will be interesting to see how the local First Nation governments approach the announcement and how it may impact on the state of proceedings as far as their concerns and wishes go. There have been no shortage of appointments made in the past and most of the talks that have taken place haven't led to a resoultion yet.
No details were given as to when Mr. Eyford plans on meeting with the First Nations of the area, or what process will take place to try and resolve the outstanding issues of the day.

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