I was pleased to note from the government’s website that implementing the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in B.C. is about ending discrimination, upholding basic human rights and ensuring more economic justice and fairness.
Given the government’s willingness to implement this declaration, I would like to draw attention to two issues: that of the construction of the Site C Dam and the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
1) In 2014, Premier John Horgan stated in a filmed interview that First Nations in the Peace region of the Site C Dam had entrenched constitutional rights that were going to be violated by this dam.
However, on Dec. 11, 2017, the government announced its decision to complete the dam. Following six months of confidential talks with the B.C. government and BC Hydro aimed at avoiding litigation, the West Moberly First Nations has announced it will proceed with a Site C dam court challenge, saying it infringes on their treaty rights. Apparently, the talks went nowhere.
2) Indigenous groups involved in the court challenge against Trans Mountain are the Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish Nations in Metro Vancouver, the Coldwater Indian Band in Merritt and a coalition of First Nations in the Fraser Valley.
Although the court has ruled that upcoming arguments can only focus on whether the latest round of Indigenous consultation was adequate, the Tsleil-Waututh and three environmental groups sought leave to appeal that ruling in the Supreme Court of Canada, claiming the Federal Court was wrong to refuse to hear arguments about the risk of an oil spill or threats to endangered southern killer whales.
Lastly, when the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted in 2007, it introduced the right to free, prior and informed consent for Indigenous Peoples. It is one of the fundamental aspects of the UN declaration and is included in six articles. While all six articles are significant, Article 32.1 is of particular interest to the extractive resource sector in Canada:
“States shall consult and co-operate in good faith with the Indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources.”
If the government of B.C. is indeed implementing this declaration, how is it that we are continuing to build the Site C Dam and expand the Trans Mountain pipeline?
Is this not duplicitous on the part of the government?
It’s not possible to pick and choose. Implementing the declaration means that Indigenous peoples have the right to free, prior and informed consent regarding any utilization or exploitation of resources, including the building of the Site C Dam and expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline across Indigenous land.