In a situation similar to that of Inuit groups hoping to profit from oil and gas extraction in the Arctic, a recent deal between the Metis community of Conkin and Cenovus Energy promises to give the community a financial stake in oil sands development:
The deal with Cenovus Energy Inc. will give the 300 members of the community benefits worth an estimated $40-million to $60-million over 40 years tied to the growth of oil production from nearby projects â€” a form of royalty because the more the company produces, the higher the benefits.
The agreement â€” the details of which Cenovus wants to keep secret, but the community wants to tell everyone about â€” marks a major win for aboriginal communities seeking to reap long-term benefits from escalating oil-sands activity that is impacting their environment and way of life.
While the community may see the deal as adequate compensation for any environmental harms they themselves will suffer, it does not take into consideration the harms that climate change resulting from oil sands extraction will impose on people in future generations all over the world.
While economic development in First Nations communities is definitely an important issue, members of such communities have no more of a moral right than anybody else to impose harms on others in order to secure financial gains for themselves. Particularly given how the size of the payments depends on the level of production from the oil sands operation, there is a clear conflict of interest here between the people receiving the payments and the people who will suffer most of the harm from the extraction and use of these fossil fuels.