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Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Resource Revenue Sharing with Aboriginal Peoples

By Ken Coates




Canada is engaged in a debate about the appropriateness of resource revenue 
sharing with Aboriginal peoples. Twenty years ago, the concept had little traction 
outside of Aboriginal circles. Now, resource revenue sharing operates across more 
than half of the country’s land mass. 

Three things to know about revenue sharing:

1. There is no single model of resource revenue sharing. British Columbia 
negotiates arrangements on a project-by-project basis. The Northwest 
Territories shares a portion of its resource revenue among all Aboriginal 
communities in the jurisdiction. Saskatchewan rejects the concept out of hand 
and does not have arrangements in place. In many parts of the North, from 
Labrador to the Yukon, resource revenue sharing is built into modern treaties.  

2. Resource revenue sharing is only part of the financial benefit that accrues to 
Aboriginal communities from resource developments. Collaboration agreements, 
which involve jobs, training and business opportunities, are over and above 
revenue sharing.  

3. Resource revenue sharing is not mandated by the Supreme Court, the 
Constitution or Government of Canada policy. Natural resources are a provincial 
responsibility and the revenues flow to provincial and territorial authorities. It is 
up to the individual sub-national governments to determine the shape of 
revenue sharing.  

Three myths about revenue sharing:

Myth #1: Aboriginal communities will become wealthy from resource revenue sharing 
arrangements on their traditional territories. With most arrangements, this is 
not the case. The money is welcome, but it is smaller than the sums available 
through equity ownership or the development of natural resources on 
Aboriginal lands.

Myth #2: Resource revenue sharing is a response to an Aboriginal veto over resource 
development. It is not. Although Indigenous communities have considerable 
legal and political authority, governments are not compelled to share their 
revenues.

Myth #3: Resource revenue sharing comes from the resource companies. False. Resource 
companies contribute to Aboriginal communities in other ways, and the resource 
revenue comes from the royalties collected by government. Aboriginal people are, indeed, sharing in the wealth generated from their traditional territories, albeit in a typically Canadian patchwork of policy and practice. Revenue sharing is a reality and has played a key role in securing Aboriginal support for resource development.

Ken Coates is Canada Research Chair in Regional Innovation, Johnson-Shoyama 
Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Saskatchewan and Senior Fellow, 
Macdonald-Laurier Institute and the co-Director the Aboriginal People and Natural 
Resources Project.  He is the author of #IdleNoMore (University of Regina Press) and 
the co-author of From Treaty Peoples to Treaty Nation (UBC Press).

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