Canada Enbridge Approval Unites First Nations, Amnesty, Rights Groups in Opposition
The Canadian government’s approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline proposed by Enbridge Inc. has angered Indigenous Peoples throughout British Columbia, and now they’ve been joined by a number of prominent groups ranging from First Nations organizations to Amnesty International.
Reaction poured forth from First Nations in British Columbia on June 17 after the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper approved the project as long as Enbridge meets 209 conditions, as 28 First Nations and four indigenous groups gave a joint statement swearing to bury the pipeline in court. On Friday June 20, members of Gitga’at First Nation plan to stretch a crocheted Chain of Hope across the Douglas Channel, blocking shipping in a symbolic gesture, the band said in a statement.
Below, Amnesty International Canada and numerous other human rights groups say that it’s a matter of upholding the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
18 June 2014
Canada’s Failure to Uphold the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Its Approval of Northern Gateway
BC Assembly of First Nations, First Nations Summit, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Amnesty International Canada, Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers), Chiefs of Ontario, Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee), Indigenous Rights Centre, Indigenous World Association, and KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
The overall process surrounding the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline has failed to respect and protect the human rights of Indigenous peoples whose lands and waters would be affected by the project. Having reviewed the environmental impact assessment and the positions taken by affected First Nations, as well as the federal and provincial governments, our organizations conclude that this week’s conditional approval of the project by the federal government violates Canada’s legal obligations under both domestic and international law. Unfortunately, these serious concerns were only minimally addressed in the federally commissioned Eyford Report on the broader issue of West Coast energy infrastructure.
In a Joint Submission to the federal government this March, our organizations pointed out that large-scale resource development and infrastructure projects can have significant impacts on a wide range of human rights. These include rights to health and a healthy environment, the right to culture, the right to equality, the right to livelihood, and Indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination and to use, control and benefit from their lands, territories and resources.
In decisions potentially affecting the rights of Indigenous peoples, special measures are required. Increased rigor must be applied because Indigenous peoples face a greater risk of harm due to the largely unaddressed legacy of rights violations and ongoing impoverishment and marginalization. Indigenous peoples’ rights are not a barrier to economic development. They provide a principled framework to ensure that development will be carried out sustainably and will benefit Indigenous peoples, rather than compounding injustices they have experienced.
The environmental impact assessment of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline did not consider fundamental aspects of Indigenous peoples’ rights, such as their title to affected lands—rights that would include the “right to exclusive use and occupation of land” and the “right to choose to what uses land can be put." Such matters were specifically excluded from the Joint Review Panel’s mandate.
During the review process, the federal government assured the Panel that it would consult with Indigenous peoples on their rights before giving the project final approval. Having failed to do so, the federal government has now called on the project proponent to carry out further consultation as a condition of the government’s approval of the project. It is the Crown alone that has the Constitutional duty to consult and accommodate Aboriginal peoples in regard to their rights and titles. It is unclear how meaningful, good faith consultation can take place at this point.
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