Theory and Practice in the Government of Alberta’s Consultation Policy
n this paper, I discuss the Government of Alberta’s policy and practice regarding consultation with Aboriginal Albertans regarding resource development, particularly the issuance to third parties of Crown dispositions that may have an impact on Aboriginal or treaty rights. My review of this subject matter is grouped around three conclusions, which are at first glance inconsistent. First, I argue that Alberta’s policy statements and the guidelines that it has issued to implement these fall far short of fulfilling—or even acknowledging in any meaningful way—the Province’s constitutional obligation to consult with Aboriginal Albertans and accommodate the latters’ concerns regarding resource development. However, in keeping with the distinction between theory and practice recognized by Warren Buffett and Yogi Berra, I concede that for reasons that are not reflective of any inherent merit in Alberta’s approach, the development and management of resource development appears to operate smoothly and efficiently, without any serious legal challenges or significant delays in the process. Finally, I suggest that the current practical success of Alberta’s approach is artificial and likely time-limited, and that without a more sincere Crown effort to fulfill its constitutional obligations the future of orderly development of natural resources is unlikely.
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