As mining companies and other entities get more and more serious about conducting meaningful consultation with aboriginals on land and resource development, aboriginal law is a fast-growing field.
A sign of that is the new position that W. Thomas Molloy, the renowned negotiator of First Nations legal issues and a business-law expert, has taken at one of the most prominent law firms in the country.
He is one of four new appointees at Miller Thomson, the nationally known business-law firm. He will be based in the Saskatchewan office, where he will form part of its aboriginal law team, the firm said in a recent announcement.
Whereas many industry leaders are scratching their heads over how to engage with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, Molloy sees it as simple. Just treat aboriginals like everyone else.
“Canadian corporations and policy makers spend substantial resources to understand how to successfully conduct business internationally,” said Molloy in a statement from his new employer. “They recognize that success depends upon a relationship-based approach rooted in cultural understanding. The question we need to ask ourselves is why do we not take a similar approach here at home when seeking to engage First Nations communities?”
To Molloy it’s a no-brainer, but a surprising number of businesspeople are only just beginning to catch on. The recent meeting of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) demonstrated the great need for attorneys and business people who understand and can relate to the aboriginal world.
As the National Post pointed out recently, although treaties and other agreements between First Nations and the Crown are centuries old, court rulings clarifying what those documents meant have only been around for a few years.
It takes finesse to sort out those issues, the National Post said. PDAC had several panels and forums devoted to improving, and understanding, aboriginal relations.
Among Molloy’s accomplishments are negotiated treaties with the Nisga’a of British Columbia and was the lead negotiator of the team that helped create Nunavut. He has also negotiated treaties with the L’heidli T’enneh and Sliammon First Nations of British Columbia, and in 2011 helped set the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia on their path to self-rule. Currently he is negotiating a land claim with Caledonia.
A recent recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, he is also an officer of the Order of Canada.
“Tom is singular in stature in Canada,” Miller Thomson Chairman Gerald Courage said in the firm’s statement. “He has the extraordinary ability to bridge business, government and First Nations interests in the most complex of circumstances—a skill that has been honed over decades working in every region of the country.”