Editorial: Canada’s clarity deficit keeps rising

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Clarity is atop the list of items Canadian businesses need more of from their governments. 

But it appears to be on the bottom of government priority lists. 

Consider, for instance, the recent embrace in B.C. of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). 

The intent here is good. Securing the consent and involvement of First Nations in energy development, mining and other resource extraction business opportunities will in the long run ensure that all citizens have the potential to share in the natural resource wealth of their communities and be armed with the tools to build their economies and develop the economic freedom that is the foundation of any resilient community or enterprise. 

The recent UNDRIP forum held in Vancouver presented success stories that illustrate that potential for Indigenous and non-Indigenous enterprises alike. Fusing the energy and innovation of the two is key to tapping a whole that will be far greater than the sum of its diffuse parts in British Columbia. 

But UNDRIP does little to increase clarity for business investment in B.C. The controversy over whether elected or hereditary leaders of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation are the rightful representatives of their communities illustrates that residual lack of clarity. 

What is clear, however, is that responsibility for securing consent is not exclusive to corporations or government. That responsibility starts at ground level in any community. 

There is little chance that companies will be able to win majority buy-in from First Nations or any other group if leaders of those groups have not secured the majority consent and approval from the communities they claim to represent. 

As with long-term success at any level, accountability and clarity are fundamental to effective leadership and economic progress.

Misunderstood and misapplied, the UNDRIP factor will guarantee neither, and that is potentially counterproductive in a land where accountability and clarity are already in short supply.