Bob McLeod: Opening Remarks - Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada Convention

Delivered on March 4, 2018

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Good afternoon. I am happy to be here this afternoon to talk about mineral exploration in the Northwest Territories, the importance of responsible resource development to the territorial economy and why all of this should matter to you.

In the Northwest Territories the land has given us what we need to sustain life. Over the years our relationship to the land has changed but one thing that has remained the same is the way we rely on the land for our economic survival.  Our Territory is home to many of the minerals that will fuel the global green economy, including cobalt, gold, lithium, bismuth, and rare earth elements. The makers of batteries, solar panels, wind turbines, hand held electronics and computers rely on these minerals to make their products more efficient. 

Our territory also has substantial oil and gas resources stretching from the Beaufort Sea in the north down to the Cameron Hills in the southwestern Northwest Territories near our border with the Yukon and British Columbia. We also have substantial reserves of lead, zinc, silver and copper and are the third biggest producer of diamonds by value in the world.

Right now, the most important priority for our government is to create a good, sustainable future for the people of the Northwest Territories and we believe that the opportunities for economic growth that can do this and benefit all Canadians are endless. That being said, we also know that to achieve this we need support from Canada and their recognition that Northerners need to be the ones making decisions about the future of the North.

Today, Canada still controls many decisions related to economic development in the North and I have been calling on the Prime Minister for tangible investment needed for the transformative social and economic development of the North.

In the Northwest Territories, we are committed to upholding Indigenous and treaty rights and have been involved in the negotiation and settling of multiple land, resources and self-government agreements for decades.  

This commitment makes our territory a national leader and example of how real partnership with regional and community Indigenous governments based on mutual respect and recognition can lead to increased political self-determination and economic participation for the North’s Indigenous people. Indigenous leaders are the decision makers in the Northwest Territories, both in the public Government of the Northwest Territories and in regional and community Indigenous governments. We have been setting public policies and creating programs and services that are informed by our own experiences and priorities as Indigenous people.

I said earlier that I would talk about why any of this should matter to you. Well the fact is, the Northwest Territories is a large territory with a small population. We have an abundance of untapped potential in the north and isn’t just Northerners who will benefit from the long-term development of our territory - it is all of Canada.

A growing Northwest Territories will demand goods, services and materials from southern Canada as we build and invest in new infrastructure and businesses. It will also require labour from the south to supplement our own relatively small labour force. That is why this should matter to you – because economic expansion in the Northwest Territories will provide job and business opportunities to Canadians from across the country.

It also matters because we have a successful model for Indigenous reconciliation that can serve as a guide for the rest of the country. A strong, thriving economy is a crucial part of that model, and we have to make sure we continue to support it.

The Northwest Territories has taken great strides towards political self-determination with a number of land, resources and self-government agreements having been settled and more in active negotiations.  As I said, Indigenous people in the Northwest Territories are decision makers and their views and priorities are represented at the very heart of the public government. They are not simply a special interest group to be consulted as part of a decision making process that they do not direct or participate in. Canada should be looking to the NWT as a model for how to succeed at building partnerships and sharing authority with regional and community Indigenous governments. The way we do business works and we are ready to share our practices with our southern counterparts.

Change and effective planning takes time and so it is imperative that developing a plan for our territory be a priority for Canada. I encourage each of you to continue to have the conversation about the potential in Northern Canada, ask questions or come visit and see firsthand the opportunities that exist.  Together we can work to achieve a shared vision for a strong, sustainable North that all Canadians can be proud of. 

I’d like to thank you for the chance to speak to you this afternoon and I hope you all enjoy the rest of the conference.

Thank you.