Mining group's comments promote 'outdated stereotype' about Indigenous people, says MHA

·2 min read

A member of the province's House of Assembly says comments made by an Alberta mining group surrounding Newfoundland and Labrador's Indigenous community were disappointing and promote outdated stereotypes.

The comment was made by junior mining exploration group Aurwest Resources on Facebook after the corporation acquired over 23,000 hectares of land for exploration in central Newfoundland.

When asked if the province's First Nations owned any part of the agreement, the company said no, and called Newfoundland "attractive because they're isn't any aboriginal issues."

The corporation has since apologized for the comment.

Aurwest Resources/Facebook
Aurwest Resources/Facebook

Torngat Mountains MHA Lela Evans said she was surprised to see the comment made on the corporation's social media, but was primarily disappointed.

"[They're] reinforcing an outdated negative stereotype I thought," she said Sunday. "That Indigenous people are difficult to get along with."

Evans, who worked in the exploration industry before becoming an MHA, said she has seen the importance of Indigenous consultation on projects across the province first-hand, saying the concern for the environment is a key issue.

"With Indigenous people, they want to be consulted, they want to make sure the land is protected," she said. "They want to make sure it's done in an environmentally safe manner and also make sure their peoples are safe, because there's issues around spills and contaminates effecting the wild life."

"We want to make sure regardless of where you're exploring, where you're working, the environment has to be protected."

Comment 'made in error,' corporation says

In a statement made by Aurwest to CBC News, President Colin Christensen said the comment was "made in error" and didn't intend harm.

"My background in the mineral business extends over several countries and includes interaction with many different people from all walks of life, backgrounds and cultures, including Indigenous," Christensen said. " It is one of the many pluses about being in the mining business in that it does provide you with the opportunity to work with such a diverse population. And I welcome it."

"Where possible we also try to include them in working opportunities, and work to understand each other, and we would operate in the same way in Newfoundland. Again, we extend our sincerest apologies."

Evans said she accepts the apology, believing the corporation did not understand the requirements of working in the province.

"It's not an Indigenous issue, it's basically the province is insisting that this be done in a responsible manner," she said. "And if Indigenous are in the area they need to be consulted."

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