Saskatchewan

First Nations seek share of Sask. potash riches

First Nations leaders are demanding that Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall help them get their fair share of potash revenue.

First Nations leaders are demanding that Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall help them get their fair share of potash revenue.

They say they want agreements with potash companies that will guarantee jobs and money to First Nations communities, although Wall says he's against regulating that kind of co-operation.

The topic of potash revenues for First Nations came up during a "bear pit" session Wednesday between the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and the provincial cabinet.

Saskatchewan is a world leader in potash production and potash revenues contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to provincial government coffers every year.

Chief Glen Pratt of the George Gordon First Nation said Saskatchewan First Nations people deserve their share of the potash pie.

"If the Treaty 4 First Nations are left out, I think its time to elevate our fight to a whole other level because there's certainty for government, there's certainty for industry and there's uncertainty for First Nations," Pratt said.

Forced co-operation

FSIN Chief Guy Lonechild said the provincial government should force the companies running potash mines — including such corporate giants as PotashCorp and Mosaic — to work with First Nations.

The co-operation could take several forms, he said.

"Whether that's environment issues, economic issues, social issues," Lonechild said.

But Wall said that would be a bad idea because it could scare off investment.

"I think if you start forcing it, if you start listing a bunch of rules, if you try to put a gun to the head of these companies, it might be counterproductive," Wall said.

"They might just find a place where all of those restrictions aren't there to invest and that's not going to help anyone — either First Nations or non-First Nations."

In the long term, better education is the best way to improve the financial position of Saskatchewan First Nations, Wall said, adding the Saskatchewan government is committed to that.

now