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The judge said the blockade “smells of coercion.” Toronto Sun parliamentary reporter Brian Lilley called it “nothing but a shakedown that is being aided and abetted by the police.” National Post columnist Jonathan Kay agreed, stating the protesters are “banking on the knowledge that the easiest course for De Beers would be simply to render payment, in some respectably veiled fashion, to whoever can credibly promise to stop the protests. This is the sort of lawless behaviour that one expects in places such as, say, Nigeria, where Western companies actually budget for such shakedowns. And it’s appalling that it would be tolerated on Canadian soil.”
The court case resumed on Friday, when the judge extended the expiry date of his unenforced injunction. Friday’s Timmins Times described a chaotic court scene as natives disputed their own translators.
But while Smitheman despaired about the rule of law in northern Ontario, the problem is more widespread. Any Canadian resource project at any stage of exploration, development or production could face a similar scenario.
During the “Idle No More” protests that started in late 2012, small groups of natives blocked urban, highway and rail traffic in different locations across Canada, and did so with impunity. In November 2011 an illegal blockade by just two natives prevented Taseko Mines TSX:TKO from drilling on British Columbia Crown land. When the company applied for an injunction, the court sided with the protestors. The B.C. government decision to reject Pacific Booker Minerals’ TSXV:BKM proposed Morrison mine might have resulted from native opposition.
Quite possibly some projects advance only because of payoffs that are, as Kay suggested, more or less “respectably veiled.”
Others are top secret. Last March Garry Clark of the Ontario Prospectors Association told the Globe and Mail some juniors pay native bands to allow exploration drilling on Crown land in confidential deals that often exceed $100,000.
B.C. between a rock and a hard place
As Pacific Booker prepares to sue B.C., new info about the government’s previous dispute with Boss Power TSXV:BPU came to light in Tuesday’s Business in Vancouver. A sudden decision to ban uranium mining in 2008 rendered the company’s sole asset worthless, the magazine noted. The decision was one of a number of unpredictable provincial government moves that had the mining industry concerned about “uncertainty, the sudden policy changes,” Fraser Institute spokesperson Jean-Francois Minardi told ResourceClips in October 2011. That month media learned about an out-of-court settlement with Boss that cost taxpayers $30 million.
BIV found evidence the 2008 decision “was implemented amidst a milieu of government PR scheming, bureaucrat confusion and mining industry ire.” And that was under the relatively stable, business-friendly administration of former premier Gordon Campbell. Now under the leadership of Christy Clark, the governing BC Liberals are staggering towards a May election handicapped by party in-fighting, political blundering and policy confusion. But the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), favoured by pollsters to win, looks even less favourably on resource development.
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