Weighing Benefits and Risks

Internal Conflicts

The Issue

Within the research on BAs, the challenge of community unity within and across First Nations is suggested, but rarely well-understood by researchers and observers external to these communities.9 Conflicts across Indigenous communities may be related to internal legitimacy, shared or overlapping territorial issues, as well as the quality of community engagement and information-sharing.

A notable exception to available guidance and literature on this topic is the 2015 toolkit authored by Gibson and O’Faircheallaigh, who shed light on the impacts of this challenge on the BA negotiation process. They note that community negotiators must be mindful of the potential impact of political disagreements on negotiations with developers and governments, as well as be aware of broader goals being pursued by a community in order to ensure that a BA contributes to these goals, rather than undermining them (Gibson and O’Faircheallaigh, 2015, 54).

Guidance from Gibson and O’Faircheallaigh (2015) proposes that BA negotiators can refer to community planning exercises or consultations undertaken for other needs or processes, such as land claims, in order to identify key priorities, and in turn to use these prior consultative documents to identify the issues that could be prioritized in BA negotiations. If a community has not had an opportunity to establish and articulate its goals, a community consultation and planning exercise as part of the preparation for negotiations could prove useful. When these broader goals are poorly understood, it can result in content provisions that may not be valued by the community and may ultimately contribute to unnecessary social tensions (Gibson and O’Faircheallaigh, 2015, 54).


Furthermore, a lack of community cohesion can detract from the quality of the overall terms negotiated, and weaken the level of commitment all parties bring to implementing the terms. Gibson and O’Faircheallaigh (2015) note that while varying priorities are to be expected across a community, communities need to be supported to express healthy and holistic ways of navigating these diverse priorities in order to arrive at consensus on what will be emphasised collectively, and to recognize that a united front on the importance of accommodating diverse preferences is more likely to result in an agreement that accommodates all preferences, rather than viewing them in a zero-sum fashion. They note that it is best to arrive at this position prior to commencing BA negotiations with a company.

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