Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Let me first say that it's an honour for me to appear before the committee this afternoon. I work as a researcher on indigenous knowledge and environmental governance in the Nordics. I'm also indigenous Sami and I grew up in a reindeer-herding family in northern Norway.
I'm looking at your mandate and I've been thinking a little bit about what it is that I can contribute to your work. I'm not sure whether it will be best practices that I'm able to present this afternoon, but rather I believe my presentation will focus on challenges including indigenous knowledge and environmental governance and planning in the Nordics.
My testimony this afternoon represents research and engagement conducted by my fellow scientists and myself, in partnership with both reindeer herders and indigenous leaders over the past decade. I particularly want to acknowledge the Sámi University of Applied Sciences, the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry and the Association of World Reindeer Herders as leading institutions in this work.
I will focus mainly on experiences from the Nordics and highlight challenges that we have identified for engaging indigenous peoples and indigenous knowledge in governance processes and then focusing on reindeer herding, in particular.
I'll give a very brief introduction to reindeer herding for those of you who are maybe not familiar with it. It's the primary livelihood for over 20 indigenous peoples throughout the circumpolar North. It involves more than 100,000 people and around 2.5 million semi-domesticated reindeer in nine nation states. Most of this is focused in Eurasia, but you do also have a small reindeer herd in Canada.
Reindeer herding is a nomadic livelihood, which is characterized by extensive, yet low-impact, use of land. In Norway, where I focus my research, we have some 250,000 reindeer on approximately 150,000 square kilometres, which is equivalent to 40% of all the land area of Norway, yet only about 3,000 people are involved.
Reindeer herding is a very land extensive livelihood, but doesn't involve a lot of people and is not a huge economy. It can be seen as a human-coupled ecosystem that has a high resilience to climate variability and change and it is an indigenous model for sustainable management of marginal areas in the Arctic. A key source of resilience for reindeer herding is indigenous knowledge that has been accumulated over generations.
In this context, what I mean by indigenous knowledge—and this is a definition that I'm borrowing from the work of the permanent participants at the Arctic Council—is:
...a systematic way of thinking and knowing that is elaborated and applied to phenomena across biological, physical, cultural and linguistic systems. [Indigenous] knowledge is owned by the holders of that knowledge, often collectively, and is uniquely expressed and transmitted through Indigenous languages. It is a body of knowledge generated through cultural practices, lived experiences including extensive and multi-generational observations, lessons and skills. It has been developed and verified over millennia and is still developing in a living process, including knowledge acquired today and in the future, and it is passed on from generation to generation.
Within reindeer herding, significant knowledge has been generated over time about both reindeer and the human relationships to them and relationships between animals and the environment. There's also accumulated knowledge of dramatic changes in the natural environment and about strategies of how to adapt to such challenges.
This kind of knowledge still forms the main basis for survival for reindeer-herding peoples. It has not been replaced or suspended by research-based knowledge. It's very much available and it's in use every day, but such knowledge has historically been neglected by research and policy. Based on our research, we argue that perhaps more than ever, indigenous knowledge is now crucial for the future survival of reindeer herding in the face of major change.
As you all know, Arctic areas are undergoing a number of changes, ranging from social to environmental, and these are capable of adversely affecting traditional livelihoods. The extensive and nature-based character of reindeer herding means that it is directly impacted by the so-called “megatrends”, and by that I mean trends such as climate change, loss of biodiversity and land-use change. The impacts of these megatrends are inseparable.
Allow me to elaborate.
Future climate scenarios indicate that mean winter temperatures may increase by as much as 7°C to 8 °C over the next 100 years in Sami reindeer-herding pasturelands, and that the snow season may be one to three months shorter. This represents a significant shift, and it is likely that rapid and variable fluctuations between freezing and thawing will increase. Why is this important? Reindeer herding is a livelihood that depends on snow conditions for reindeer to be able to get through to the forage underneath. Warm temperatures and melting snow have periodically created bad grazing years in Sami reindeer herding. Extremely bad grazing conditions, which we in the Sami language call "goavvi", cause starvation and loss of reindeer and subsequently negatively impact reindeer herders' community and organization.
In the last 100 years, goavvi has occurred around 12 times in Guovdageaidnu, but we are seeing in climate projections that the frequency of this type of weather condition will likely increase in the future.
Yet, if you talk to Sami reindeer herders, they will often say they are much more alarmed by loss of grazing land than they are of climate change. Why? A reason for this is that mobility, moving your herd to a different area, is a key adaptive strategy for adverse snow conditions. Access to pasture resources will therefore be even more important under climate change. This has been recognized by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report, which points out that protection of grazing land will be the most important adaptive strategy for reindeer herders under climate change.
Loss of pastures is a significant challenge for reindeer husbandry in all places where it's practised, but this has been particularly pronounced in the Nordic countries. Pastures are lost due to all sorts of developments: roads, infrastructure, military activities, power lines, pipelines, dams, leisure homes and related activities that all have contributed to decline in reindeer pastures.
Loss of pastures occurs principally in two ways: first, the physical destruction of pastures; and second, the effective though non-destructive removal of habitat or reduction of its value as a resource. By that I mean the gradual abandonment by reindeer of previously high-use areas due to avoidance of areas that are disturbed by human activities. The numbers are alarming. Studies show that approximately 25% of grazing land in northern Norway is now strongly disturbed, including 35% of key coastal areas. This figure has been estimated to increase to as much as 78% by 2050 if no changes are made in national or regional policies. That means that up to 1% of summer grazing grounds used by Sami reindeer herders along the coast of Norway are lost every year.
A major challenge for reindeer herding is that the majority of the loss of grazing land occurs through piecemeal loss. For example, in spite of Norway having ratified ILO convention 169 on the rights of indigenous people and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Sami reindeer herders have so far had very little influence on land rights and piecemeal development. Despite the fact that reindeer-herding groups and individuals are heard in decision-making processes—for example, through participatory processes—reindeer herders' indigenous knowledge is not included as part of the decision-making foundation.
Our research shows that the challenge of making use of indigenous knowledge in governance relates to more than just a conflict of what is known—i.e. an epistemological conflict—but also to a conflict in the logic of what constitutes appropriate functional and geographical scales of governance and, not least, what constitutes appropriate land use. Sectorial fragmentation in governmental administration leads to a situation in which assessments of the cumulative effects of all projects combined are not part of decision-making. In other words, one ministry is in charge of infrastructure, another is in charge of hydro power development, a third forestry, etc., while reindeer herding, on the other hand, due to its extensive nature and dependence on different types of pastures, constantly monitors and records any changes in land uses.
I argue that failure to integrate these perspectives into governance systems can be seen as a lost opportunity to account for cumulative long-term effects of land use changes in decision-making.
Our research suggests that the process of making use of indigenous knowledge in governance needs to start already at the policy formation stage; that is, when indigenous knowledge is not part of the policy formation process. Waiting until policy implementation to include it will be more challenging, if not downright impossible—
Thank you very much for the invitation to take part in this meeting. I'm very honoured by it.
What I'm going to talk about is based on research projects here at UiT, The Arctic University of Norway. They are carried out through the co-operation of researchers in Norway, Sweden, Canada and Australia.
I must also say that I've thought a little bit about what Canada can learn from Norway. That was my first silly thought. But I've also been teaching in a joint master's program with a Canadian university and in my own, and I can see that we can learn from very different examples. What I'm going to talk about then is the situation in Norway. I have Norwegian examples, and maybe we can discuss how they can be used in the Canadian context.
Norway is a country very rich in resources, as you may know. I'm not going to go into the petroleum sector, but Norway has been a country rich in energy since about 100 years ago when Norway started to develop hydro power using waterfalls, building dams and using rivers to produce electricity. It was important for the development of Norway as an independent nation. After World War II, it was very important for having an income and developing the welfare state. Today we have a situation in which 95% of the electricity in Norway comes from hydro power.
It is a publicly owned resource, with 50% of the electricity production owned by the state, 40% owned by municipalities and counties, and only 10% owned privately. Today, if you are applying for a licence to build a new power plant, you need two-thirds public ownership and funding of that plant. In Norway there has for a long time been a political struggle for public ownership of electricity and electricity production and for national ownership of the perpetual resource that these rivers and dams represent.
Electricity has been important for infrastructure, for welfare in Norway, for the building industry, for employment, for export revenues and as a source of extra income for municipalities. Currently Norwegian municipalities receive about one billion Norwegian kroner each year in income from concession conditions on this electricity.
Electricity in Norway for many years was managed by the government. It still is. But between the two world wars and also after World War II, the state was the main actor. The state was controlling and the state was trying to control the system.
We got a new energy law in 1991, which changed the system radically, in the sense that the electricity system became market-based. Norway is connected to the Nordic electricity market and later also became connected to the European electricity market. The different producers compete in this market, whereas there is a monopoly on the grids, on the transmission lines, in Norway.
Today's debate is not so much about large hydro power projects. That era seems to be over. What we are debating today is wind and sun, and it's about the development of new renewable energy. Particularly wind farms are under debate as are, to some extent, solar plants. Wind farms are popping up in a lot of places in Norway. The production from wind is increasing. Figures from today, from Statistics Norway, show a 36% increase in 2018, but wind is still only 2.5% of the electricity production in Norway.
Another debate or issue concerns grids or power transmission lines. The goal is to strengthen the power grid in Norway to connect the country. As the first speaker said, that puts pressure on the use of land in different parts of Norway, but particularly in northern Norway with the grazing land for reindeer herders.
In terms of energy and the role of indigenous peoples, there is a history of conflict. In Norway this is mostly illustrated by the conflict between the state and the Sami people over the Alta River in the early 1980s. The state wanted to build a big dam and the Sami said they were not included in the process. The Sami and those who were against this, including those in the environmental movement, lost this battle, but it was the beginning of developing the main Sami institutions in Norway.
I'm going to talk a little bit about the three relationship models when it comes to indigenous people and energy. The first one is this Alta River conflict, with a rejection of the energy projects by indigenous peoples. We have conflict, very little or no participation, and continuous struggles between the state or government and the indigenous peoples. In the second model, we have participation, involvement in the decision-making processes, and formal requirements for participation. The third model is the one where I would say indigenous peoples or local communities take ownership of energy production and use it for local development and possibly income.
In my opinion, this third model is not present in Norway for either wind or solar. As far as I know, it is developing a little bit in Canada, but not in the Nordic countries. I can give several explanations for that, but I won't do that here. We do not have impact and benefit agreements, but municipalities that host large hydro power stations are compensated. That's been the model for about 100 years.
If we are looking for a Norwegian model, my suggestion would be the second one, which is participation. I will give a brief presentation on that. For Norway, indigenous rights and indigenous politics have been very much based on, and have had major input from, international law. UNDRIP is an example, but ILO C169 has been the most central. ILO C169 became important for the development of consultations as a tool in the contact and co-operation between the Norwegian state and the Sami Parliament from 2005. The consultation agreement that's currently in use says that the state has to inform the Sami Parliament or other Sami actors about the upcoming cases. The Sami Parliament can then demand consultation, and then they should ideally exchange opinions. The goal is to reach an agreement or consent between the actors.
Where are we today? We have formal processes that are used. The Sami Parliament and reindeer herders are invited in. They do participate. Another observation is that the Sami representatives and the Norwegian state disagree, and they do not achieve the agreement or consent that is the goal of the consultation procedures. If we look at consultations in general, one of the observations that is made is that the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate is a challenging case for the Sami Parliament. They emphasize an energy economy and obligations for more renewable energy before they eventually turn to the question of Sami rights and the reindeer herders' situation.
There are large windmill or wind farm projects, either planned or under construction. The conflicts over them may well end up in the courts. This intensifies the conflict over areas in cases where the local ownership is rather low.
So, if I return to the three models, we may argue that we are currently at the borderline between rejection and participation. Still, the track in Norway is still co-operation inspired by consultations. The government has said that it wants to change how the system of objections by the Sami Parliament can be managed. The question is, however, about making the system more efficient, not necessarily about finding solutions to the conflict. The trouble is to handle both the demand and the pressure for more renewable energy in Europe, and on the other hand to comply with indigenous rights at the international level. At the same time, there are very few benefits for local communities and also for Sami communities, because their energy prices are rather low, so there are very low taxes on the production of energy from wind parks.
Thank you very kindly for having us in on this obviously very important topic to our country, but also to our neighbouring countries in the circumpolar north.
And a hello to my colleague from Alaska, where I did my Fulbright. Folks in Alaska really treated me well, so I have a very fond affection for Alaska.
One of the things I know a lot of folks are thinking about when we're thinking about large energy projects is oil. It's a hot topic, as you might expect, in my home province, Saskatchewan. But I want to focus a little bit on what will be, in the long term, the bigger infrastructure energy projects that are coming down the line, which will be in electrical energy. I'm happy to talk about anything, but I want to focus on this one, especially as it relates to indigenous peoples in Canada.
When we think about this global energy transition, in my view it offers us the most important opportunity in the 21st century to renew indigenous relations through renewable energy. This will happen only if it's done right. If done badly, the transition to greener energy would be just another area of unnecessary, preventable conflict and lost opportunity for sustainable wealth generation in indigenous communities. It would truncate progress, in my view, with regard to the largest single environmental challenge of our times, which of course is climate change.
If we think about the national railway of the 19th century as the key infrastructure project that helped to build Canada from sea to sea, I would suggest that the global energy transition offers Canada the same opportunity in the 21st century, which can bind Canada together from sea to sea to sea.
I think nation building through energy could address two important dimensions, and I say this is with my prairie-Saskatchewan hat on. I think it provides us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to do better on our promise to one another that we are all treaty peoples. The energy transition can be a nation-building project that includes all founding peoples and contributes to our journey of reconciliation, through steel in the ground.
Being independent power producers, for first nations and Métis communities, offers real opportunities for indigenous equity ownership positions, in whole or in part. They provide sustainable revenue streams, employment and new business ventures.
Second, I think energy transition provides critical foundations for completing nation building, especially as it relates to the territorial and the provincial north. Energy access and energy security are everyday issues in almost all remote and rural communities in the territorial and provincial north. The high cost of energy often contributes to grinding poverty and the “heat or eat” dilemma in many communities. The lack of stable power is a deterrent to business development and business investment.
These are issues the vast majority of Canadians don't ever think about. They aren't on our horizon. But if we're truly going to complete nation building in this country, I think the energy sector is one thing, in terms of infrastructure, through which we can build Canada east, west and north. And it will enhance equality of opportunity, especially for first nations, Métis and Inuit Canadians, because their lack of equality of opportunity is largely grounded with energy. The energy transition we have in front of us provides that large-scale nation-building project.
There are four lessons.
As for my own background, I've done a lot of work in Siberia over the last 30 years. I've done 30 field trips. I read, write and speak Russian. I've done a lot of work more recently in Scandinavia, particularly in Norway and Sweden, and more recently now in Alaska. I could give you about 20 or 40 lessons, but I'll stick with four.
One is to pay attention to social impact, not just physical and environmental impacts, in doing assessments. I think that's deadly important. A place that you wouldn't expect Canada could learn some lessons from is the Sakha Republic—Yakutia—in eastern Siberia. They had a delegation—some of them are our colleagues, in fact—looking at environmental assessment processes in Canada, which have tended historically to focus on the physical and environmental impacts. To their neglect, we don't have a robust process around social, cultural and economic impacts for indigenous communities.
They thought our process had something wanting. When they went back, they actually built in—yes, they have the standard physical and environmental ones in their EIA processes—and created a process to look at social and cultural impacts, and they have deployed it. They have deployed it on two railway projects in southwestern Yakutia and on a hydroelectric development project. The reports back are that it was largely successful. Yes, remuneration or compensation is not anything like we would expect in Canada, but the point is, there's a lesson that these things can be done.
The other lesson I want to draw on—I'm glad our Norwegian colleagues set the stage—is about the decentralization of electrical power. It's coming and it's going more global, but it also provides opportunities for democratization in decision-making at the local level. I think what's going on in Norway is instructive, especially in Finnmark county, the largest county in northern Norway. It has the largest indigenous population. At one point, 90% of the land was actually owned by the state, the national state, which was not typical for every other county in Norway. There was the Finnmark Estate, which allowed co-governance, or co-management, as it were—we might use that lingo in Canada—in which there were equal appointments by the county and the Sami Parliament.
That context is I think really important when you look at that kind of decentralization of electrical power. By Canadian standards, it's a small region. By Norwegian standards, it's large. By Canadian standards, there's a fairly good population, and by Norwegian standards it's quite sparse. There are seven or eight local utilities, including everything from private to municipal to co-operative, and they've all worked together under a single one, Finnmark Kraft. One of the interesting things is that there was supposed to be some national large-scale wind development. These things are still under debate, but the fact that the Finnmark Estate is there and the fact that Finnmark Kraft is operating has actually slowed this down to where there now is an opportunity to offer local decision-making about wind power development in a way that wouldn't have been possible otherwise. That's another lesson that I think Canada can take away to think about in our context.
The third lesson is that indigenous peoples can own and operate energy utilities. I'll tell you this. In terms of the other hat I wear, I'm a negotiator for SaskPower, so I'm on the industry side of the table and have been setting out in the last eight years the negotiating of a global settlement on a hydro facility in northern Saskatchewan. When you work across the electrical utilities, I think one of the mythologies in Canada is that indigenous peoples don't have the capability or capacity to own and operate electrical utilities, but you can look at the State of Alaska and at things like the Alaska Village Electric Cooperative, AVEC, which was founded in 1967. We're only 50 years behind Alaska, but we will catch up one day. It started with a handful of communities and now has 57 native Alaskan communities owning and operating it and making investments. It is the largest electricity co-operative in the world by territory. There are lessons for Canada. We can do that.
One thing I'm working on and negotiating with SaskPower is to found the first generation and distribution utility that would be owned by first nations in Canada. There are nearly 200 projects of electrical ownership, but not in terms of utilities. That's not uncommon in the United States.
The last point I want to mention is the power of international co-operation in indigenous-led energy development. Again, I hearken back to the state of Alaska, our neighbour. The Alaska Centre for Energy and Power at UAF, with our friends in Iceland and funded as well by the Canadian government and the United States government, put together the Arctic Remote Energy Network Academy. It brought together energy champions from indigenous communities, from everywhere from Greenland to Canada to Alaska, to work on energy projects and build capacity together.
We worked in Saskatchewan with AVEC and Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation on the design of a locally owned utility and an assessment of what kind of renewable energy system could work and how it could be operated in a fiscally sustainable manner. We've taken those things, including from the Fulbright arctic initiative, and built a UArtic thematic network to sustain this kind of initiative into the future.
Here's one last thought I want to leave with you about the opportunity. I think it is profound. Sometimes Canada, and I have to say this about our country, I love this country, and no offence to my Alaskan colleague, but I think we live in the best country in the world—
I just want to acknowledge some of the comments that Professor Poelzer has made. In fact, my father used to work for Alaska Village Electric Cooperative. I also want to add that I'm an entrepreneur myself, in addition to having a political career as well as the academic career.
I've provided a number of different documents as well as my presentation to you in writing. I am going to go full steam ahead. I hope everybody can stay with me on this.
I am happy to be invited to appear and would like to commend the committee for their interest in the views of indigenous peoples in relation to natural resource development and major energy projects. Though I'm the international chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, ICC, I expect that I've been asked to participate due to my background in international human rights and in particular in the drafting of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I've chosen to testify as an individual and to share my views about incorporating the UN declaration into your study and your overall work.
The UN declaration and the rights affirmed therein are based on good-faith negotiations and dialogue between indigenous peoples and UN member states. Canada played a significant role in influencing these comprehensive normative standards while led by both Liberals and Conservatives over the 25 years of the declaration's negotiation.
As preambular paragraph 7 underscores, the rights affirmed are inherent or pre-existing. The UN declaration has achieved a universal consensus and has been unanimously reaffirmed in a wide range of UN General Assembly resolutions since its adoption in 2007. Furthermore, the rights affirmed in the UN declaration are minimum standards.
Legal scholars and courts have acknowledged that though the whole of the UN declaration is not legally binding, many of its key provisions constitute both general and customary international law and thereby create legally binding obligations in favour of indigenous peoples. The International Law Association has concluded that the UN declaration articles affirming the right to self-determination; the right to culture; land rights; and the right to redress, reparations and recourse are of a customary international law nature. Also, the rights elaborated on in the UN declaration are interrelated, indivisible and interdependent, and the change of one of its elements affects the whole.
I draw your attention also to ILO convention 169 and the OAS American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples respectively because of the compatible and mutually reinforcing nature and the explicit reference to the UN declaration as well as their status as international human rights instruments specific to indigenous peoples.
Indeed, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has held, through opinions that are binding upon the vast majority of states in the Americas that have acceded to its jurisdiction, that the rights of indigenous peoples to lands, territories and resources mean that both states and companies—third parties operating in those states—must respect the rights of indigenous peoples.
The international covenants affirm the right to self-determination, which is regarded as a prerequisite or a pre-condition to the exercise and enjoyment of all other human rights. This same right is affirmed in article 3 of the UN declaration. Legal scholars have characterized the right to self-determination as the free choice of peoples. That being the case, the right to free, prior and informed consent is an integral element of the right to self-determination.
Natural resource development and energy-related projects are often linked to indigenous peoples' lands, territories and resources. The UN declaration not only affirms rights to lands, territories and resources but also identifies the profound relationship that indigenous peoples have with their environment. These customary and historical connections also relate to indigenous systems of decision-making, as articulated in article 18 of the UN declaration with regard to the right to “maintain and develop their own indigenous decision-making institutions”, hence the importance of the rights of indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent, FPIC.
In addition to the explicit reference to FPIC in the UN declaration, there is a clear consensus in international human rights law about the state duty to consult with a goal of reaching consent, especially in the area of development projects and extractive industry activities, which more often than not require the consent of the indigenous peoples concerned.
Therefore, states must dialogue and negotiate in good faith in order to achieve consent.
There are a number of other UN declaration provisions that require states to undertake actions in conjunction with, or in consultation and co-operation with, indigenous peoples. In addition, the language of article 26, paragraph 2, affirms that “Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use”.
Here, the term “control”, in its plain meaning, suggests having power over: to influence, manage, restrain, limit or prevent something from taking place. This is no way translates to a purported right of indigenous peoples to a veto, which the former Government of Canada erroneously characterized FPIC as. There's a major distinction between the procedural and substantive aspects of FPIC and the notion of the power to veto an action. The latter is often outlined and reserved to a legislative or constitutional authority and vested in a political leader such as a president or a governor of a state.
In contrast, FPIC entails negotiation, dialogue, partnership, consultation and co-operation between the parties concerned, in good faith, and again with the objective of achieving consent. Even then, the peoples concerned may choose to assert the right to give or withhold consent regarding what may or may not take place within their territory.
The procedural implementation of the right to FPIC must be sorted out by those who are the “self” in “self-determination” and addressed on a case-by-case basis according to conditions and the “situation” of the indigenous peoples concerned. States must recognize that human rights are not absolute, and that there's a constant tension between the rights and interests of indigenous peoples and all others. In some cases, this constant tension is manifested amongst and between the indigenous peoples concerned.
The Government of Canada, under this , has concerned itself with upholding the rights of indigenous peoples. This can and does include the right to determine our own priorities for development. In addition to the right of self-determination, article 32 of the UN declaration affirms that:
Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or territories and other resources.
The former special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, in the context of extractive industries and FPIC, referred to indigenous-driven development of their lands and resources as the “preferred model”. The outcomes of indigenous-initiated and indigenous-controlled development are bound to be far more responsive to the priorities, interests, concerns, cultural values and rights of indigenous peoples. He further suggested that states may initiate programs for assistance to those indigenous peoples who choose to pursue development enterprises.
However, much of his report is devoted to the standard scenario of imposed development that many indigenous peoples have experienced and the obligations of states and third parties to mitigate impacts; monitoring third party extraterritorial activities; due diligence; and, equitable agreements.
Sustainable and equitable development are important dimensions of indigenous human rights, and natural resources as well. The preamble of the UN declaration explicitly refers to the fact that “indigenous knowledge, cultures and traditional practices contributes to sustainable and equitable development and proper management of the environment”.
Indeed, “The future we want”, the 2012 General Assembly resolution, specifically states in paragraph 49:
We stress the importance of the participation of indigenous peoples in the achievement of sustainable development. We also recognize the importance of the United Nations Declaration...in the context of global, regional, national and subnational implementation of sustainable development strategies.
A recent development of significance for the Government of Canada, this committee and indigenous people is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. One of its central objectives is, between now and 2030, to end poverty and hunger everywhere, to protect human rights and to ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources.
It is important to reference the body of work being conducted by the UN working group on business and human rights, and the important guidelines it has developed. I also urge you to review A Circumpolar Inuit Declaration on Resource Development Principles in Inuit Nunaat, from 2011.
Finally, due to recent dialogue in Canada and the fact that 2019 has been declared the International Year of Indigenous Languages by the UN, I want to underscore the importance of indigenous languages in any engagement process and also the reality of poor telecommunications infrastructure. I listened to Duane Smith and his testimony on Monday. I believe his words were to the effect that we are energy resource rich but infrastructure poor.
More important, all must acknowledge the solemn obligations undertaken by Canada in relation to developing, in collaboration with the indigenous peoples concerned, a national action plan to implement the UN declaration. This voluntarily made commitment could dramatically enhance and ensure the sustainable and equitable development of the natural resources of indigenous peoples, if they so choose, to the benefit of Canada and all Canadians.
I think the issues related to indigenous languages, which I know have been discussed in Canada, as well as infrastructure, which was highlighted by Professor Poelzer, are both matters that are worth following up on in the forthcoming dialogue.