First of all, thank you, Madam Chair.
I am Corrina Leween. I am the Chief of the Cheslatta Carrier Nation. Our territory is situated in a semi-remote location in the north-central interior of British Columbia. Since 2015, I have served as Vice-Chair of the First Nations Major Projects Coalition, which is the point of view I will be speaking from today. Before I begin, I also want to acknowledge our presence today on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people.
With me today are two members of the coalition's technical support team; Niilo Edwards, who is our Executive Director; and Aaron Bruce, who is our Legal Adviser and also a member of the Squamish Nation in British Columbia. Mr. Edwards and Mr. Bruce are able to respond to questions the committee may have about the coalition's technical work.
I want to begin by thanking the committee for this opportunity to provide comments on the consideration of Bill . In particular, I want to thank Mr. Saganash for his efforts to bring this proposed legislation forward. I also want to recognize and the Government of Canada for indicating their support for the consideration of this bill.
Today I see a historic opportunity for indigenous groups and communities to collaborate with other orders of government to create a better and shared future. Bill represents an important break with the past and a bold step into the future. UNDRIP is a tool of empowerment and a means of taking control of our destiny as the original owners of our traditional lands. This was not always the case. Our past is what has brought us here today, but it is our actions today and in the weeks, months, and years ahead that will give us a chance to set a new path, a path of our choosing.
I will start by outlining the work and the structure of the major projects coalition, which our nations established to convert our legal and constitutional rights into financial well-being and independence. Established in 2015, the coalition is a first-nations-led response to addressing community-level business capacity gaps. What started as a group of 11 first nations looking for equity ownership in major projects has grown into a first-nations-led organization of 40 elected and hereditary first nations. We have developed a comprehensive suite of economic and environmental technical models that can be used to benefit our communities.
Our mandate is non-political and business-focused. The coalition is a project-agnostic body that provides access to technical services and capacity support to our members upon request. The coalition's structure makes it possible to provide technical services to a large number of first nations dispersed over a wide geographic area. Services designed to support informed decision-making are provided to coalition members free of charge due to the funding received from the governments of Canada and British Columbia.
Our structure as a nation-based and community-driven organization has attracted the interest of first nations in other parts of Canada. We are building towards becoming a national initiative. At our March annual general meeting, members of the coalition moved to create an extra-provincial caucus, enabling first nations in other parts of Canada to join the coalition. The coalition and its services are, by design, inspired by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We have submitted a technical brief to your committee that compares key pieces of the coalition's work with articles of that declaration.
While much has been said at this committee about the political and legal considerations concerning Bill , we are here to speak to issues that highlight its practical application at the community level. I believe discussions of this nature are needed to shape the implementation of this legislation.
The coalition's work gives examples of how the government can structure its interactions with indigenous governments to live up to the principles of the declaration. These interactions should, and rightfully so, challenge the status quo and bring about dramatic and substantial change. The presence of the coalition shows that UNDRIP matters in the lives of indigenous people.
The prospects for significant change also generate fear of the unknown. Consider the principles of free, prior, and informed consent. The coalition explores the principles in the context of major project development. It provides a foundation for shared decision-making processes between indigenous governments, other orders of government, and proponents backing development within traditional territories.
We often hear the and members of his cabinet say that the environment and the economy can be balanced. We can get to that balance by working together, but it is the approach to working together that matters the most.
Our tools and models ensure that the traditional and the cultural interests of our members can also be balanced with our commercial requirements. We can use financial prosperity to support our self-determination and self-reliance. This work is organized by the coalition through three cornerstone process documents: one, a model ownership tool kit; two, an environmental stewardship framework and project assessment standards document; three, project identification and capacity support criteria document containing project-scoring criteria, which is in essence a first nations definition of what a major project is to our members.
Government and project proponents need to understand that this work is currently under way. We are undertaking some of the work necessary to administer our own affairs and advance our own futures.
The Government of Canada is making comparable efforts through such measures as the rights and reconciliation framework and the sunsetting of the Department of Indigenous Services. That requires the indigenous groups and communities to develop the sustained capacity to fully develop their own decision-making processes. Our nations have and they are ready to act.
We also have to inform government about our needs and provide them with a road map to developing these collective skills. Likewise, governments can assist the process by engaging groups like the coalition in the technical discussions. These often take place at the political level.
We need to move these partnerships at the operational level within departments and central agencies. This openness to collaborate must become commonplace across government departments and central agencies, particularly as Bill is implemented.
In closing, we need to exercise tolerance and understanding. There will be missteps along the way by our nations and by other governments, but if we believe in UNDRIP, we will accept occasional errors, provided the spirit of collaboration remains strong. UNDRIP changes everything. It provides, finally, our communities with the opportunity to move forward at lightspeed. We call on governments to support our efforts to capitalize on the new reality. We ask them to collaborate with us to build on UNDRIP's potential: a new future, one based on indigenous rights, autonomy, and prosperity. It's within our grasp.
We want to see UNDRIP synchronized with Canadian laws and legislation. Our communities want control of their future. Bill is a major step in the right direction.
I thank you for listening to me, and I look forward to your questions. Mahsi cho. Awitza.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
My name is Chief Rebecca Knockwood and I am the Chief of Fort Folly First Nation, and the Co-Chair of Mi'gmawe'I Tplu'taqnn, MTI, representing the Mi'kmaq residing in the province of New Brunswick. Beside me, I have Derek Simon, Legal Counsel for MTI.
I would first like to acknowledge that we are on the unceded territory of the Algonquin peoples. I wish to thank the Algonquin Nation for the opportunity to be on their territory.
I would also like to thank the Creator for providing us with the ability to be here today to discuss this most important issue facing our indigenous peoples and facing Canada as a whole.
The Mi'kmaq are the indigenous people of what is currently known as the Atlantic provinces, parts of Quebec, and parts of New England. We are signatories to peace and friendship treaties with the British crown, to which Canada is now a beneficiary. We have never ceded title to our territory.
First, the Mi'kmaq of New Brunswick adamantly support Bill , the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples act. We are most thankful to the Honourable Romeo Saganash for submitting this private member's bill in furthering the realization of indigenous rights in Canada.
In considering this bill, we would bring the committee's attention to the following most important issues.
The first is free, prior, and informed consent, which I will refer to as FPIC. Since Canada withdrew its objector status to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, UNDRIP, in 2016, there has been much concern regarding Canada's adoption of UNDRIP. Specifically, articles 19 and 32 identify the necessity of free, prior, and informed consent and say that Canada must consult with its indigenous people to obtain FPIC where they wish to adopt and implement legislation that will affect them or where Canada wishes to approve any project that will affect indigenous lands or resources.
There have been concerns raised by many that, if Canada is to adopt UNDRIP, then these specific provisions would provide indigenous people with a veto over legislation and project development.
FPIC is not a veto. FPIC means that the government must consult with indigenous peoples with the goal of obtaining our consent to use our lands. Where they cannot obtain the consent of the indigenous groups, government must justify its conduct following a framework set down by the court. This is consistent with what the Supreme Court of Canada has said on this issue numerous times, most recently in the Tsilhqot'in decision in 2014. FPIC also means that indigenous people have a right to say no to projects or legislation that affect our rights or our lands.
This approach is consistent with our rights of self-determination, and UNDRIP's identification of FPIC provides a strong framework for reconciling indigenous rights within the larger context of Canadian society.
Under article 46 of UNDRIP, Canada has the ability to limit the rights set out in UNDRIP where such limitation is "necessary...for...meeting the just and most compelling requirements of a democratic society.” This is the justification test that is similar to what government currently operates within with respect to the section 35 constitutional rights of indigenous peoples. As has been identified by the Supreme Court of Canada, section 35 aboriginal rights can be infringed upon, so long as Canada can justify the limitation based upon various things, including a legislative objective, conservation, safety, etc.
Thus, it is clear that there is no veto power for indigenous people contained in UNDRIP, but rather an approach that is consistent with the existing section 35 constitutional framework. That approach is also consistent with our peace and friendship treaties, which require Mi'kmaq consent for use and occupation of our lands.
What UNDRIP does is clarify Canada's existing legal obligations to indigenous peoples, including making clear the circumstances in which consent is required and the nature of that consent.
This is important, because while the courts have made the legal requirements clear, legislation and policy have not necessarily kept pace. Environmental laws and regulatory processes often treat indigenous peoples like stakeholders rather than rights holders, and government does not always approach the consultation process with the goal of obtaining consent, leading to costly disputes and litigation with indigenous peoples. We have seen this in our territory, with protests over fracking, disputes over the Sisson Brook mine, and the derailment of the energy east review process. If government had approached these projects with the goal of obtaining Mi'kmaq consent for these activities, rather than simply going through the motions of consultation, outcomes might have been different.
Bill creates a legal requirement and a process for Canada to ensure its laws are in compliance with UNDRIP. However, since policies often influence how government conducts its day-to-day business, we would recommend that the words “and policies” be added after “laws” in clause 4, and that policies be included in the national action plan required by clause 5.
Another important aspect of UNDRIP is its recognition of our rights to our lands, territories, and resources, and our right to readdress those rights. They have been lost. While these rights have already been recognized by the courts, articles 26 and 28 affirm these rights, and article 27 requires Canada to develop “a fair, independent, impartial, open, and transparent process”, having regard to our laws, customs and systems, to recognize and adjudicate our rights pertaining to our lands, territories, and resources.
Although the federal government has long recognized that its comprehensive claims and self-government policies do not adequately address the needs, aspirations, and realities of the Mi'kmaq as signatories to the peace and friendship treaties, we have struggled for some time to come up with an effective alternative to address the implementation of our aboriginal and treaty rights and the recognition of our aboriginal title.
Recently, the Mi'kmaq of New Brunswick, like our brothers and sisters in Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Prince Edward Island, have been working with the Government of Canada and the province to develop an effective process for implementing our aboriginal and treaty rights. This is called the rights implementation approach to negotiation. Much work still needs to be done, particularly on finding a way to achieve due recognition of our title. We would prefer not to have to resort to lengthy court battles in order for our title to be recognized, but we still lack effective mechanisms for addressing this outside of the courts.
The adoption of the UNDRIP bill is helpful as it creates a legal framework to ensure that our right to an effective process is grounded in law, and not just in policies, which can change from government to government. Beyond adopting this bill, we have suggested a number of specific actions the government can and should take to more effectively address our rights in our submission on the government's proposed rights recognition and implementation framework as well. We will provide the committee with a copy of that submission.
Wela'lioq for listening to me today.
I welcome any questions you may have.
Currently, we're in the feasibility study stage for one of the major projects, a multi-million dollar project that we want to see happen within my territory as well three other first nations in the area. The success story there is that four first nations are getting together to actually talk about doing a project together. The main reason for the project is the environmental fix that this project can do for our territory, which is flooded yearly. Our graves are washed into the water. We want to fix that.
The second is the economical portion of it: if it can provide jobs, if it can provide an economic benefit to the communities. That, in itself, is a success story.
We're so new that we don't have any projects that we've already completed. This project that I'm talking about is 36 years on our desk, and it's finally growing legs and getting into the feasibility stage. That's the success that I can speak of in our community.
That's not to say that there aren't other projects that we are looking at. There are a couple more projects that different communities in the northern area of British Columbia are speaking to us about, wanting to get the technical advice to head into the feasibility study.
We may start to mushroom with projects in our territories, as they see this pilot project on the table, and where it's going to go.
Niilo may want to add something to that.
Chief Knockwood, thanks for being here today as well.
We've been supplied with these really cool, handy-dandy, pocket-size versions of the United Nations declaration, and when I look through it, I don't disagree with the whole idea that this should be part of the national discussion. What's interesting though is that we always talk about major projects. We talk about energy east, mining projects, and things like that, and yet I read that it refers to anything that affects our first nations.
First nations have been a part of Canada since.... I think the word “Canada” is even a first nations word, so how do...?
Do the people of your first nation vote in general elections? Would that be considered part of the free, prior, and informed consent when it comes to laws of general application, such as the marijuana legislation, the firearms legislation, or anything that we're dealing with in this place?
Is it only for major projects that free, prior, and informed consent is part of that, or is it for all these other things that we deal with as well?
Great. Thank you very much, Madam Chair. I'm used to presenting for five minutes, so I'll be fast, and I'll give my co-panellists the remainder of my time.
First of all, thank you very much for the invitation to be here this afternoon. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce deeply appreciates it. I'm Susanna Cluff-Clyburne, obviously, and amongst my files at the Canadian chamber is the indigenous affairs file. I too wish to acknowledge, as I'm sure has been done previously this afternoon, the fact that we're meeting on unceded territory of the Algonquin people.
The Canadian chamber is not a newcomer to the examination of relationships between business and indigenous peoples. I've had the opportunity to meet several of the members of this committee to talk about our work in the past and in the present as well. Our members know that indigenous peoples, the youngest and fastest-growing segment of Canada's population, hold the promise of being a social and economic powerhouse if they have the same opportunities available to them as all Canadians do.
Over the past several years, Canadian chamber members have given us the mandate and resources to examine public policy tools and business practices that would improve indigenous peoples' participation in, and increase their benefits from, our economy. Indigenous peoples in what is now Canada once enjoyed strong, nation-to-nation, social, military, and commercial alliances with European colonists. Had it not been for the co-operation of indigenous and non-indigenous peoples—for example, during the War of 1812—Canada might not exist, and that was before the Indian Act, residential schools, and a spate of policies and programs aimed at assimilating indigenous peoples.
It wasn't just government policies that caused harm. Canada's businesses have often fallen short on seeking respectful relationships with indigenous peoples. Governments, businesses, and all Canadians need to do the hard work necessary to restore these nation-to-nation, partner-to-partner relationships throughout Canada. They're critical to the well-being of each and every one of us.
In its final report, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called upon Canadian businesses to adopt the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for their relationships. Many of our members are doing so and had respectful, mutually beneficial relationships prior to the declaration's existence. Our members support Bill . It's time that indigenous rights took their proper place in Canadian laws and regulations.
Our members also support the objectives of the approach being taken by the government, first, with its review of the laws and policies affecting indigenous peoples, and more recently, with the process to recognize and implement indigenous rights.
However—and unfortunately, there is a however—our members are frustrated with the lack of a formal process to allow for their perspectives to be heard as the government moves forward. The environment has become extremely complex on the issue of reconciliation, and our repeated requests to be part of the reconciliation conversation have, to date, fallen on deaf ears.
Last year, we were encouraged when it was indicated that the government's review of laws and policies would include a formal process to seek the input of stakeholders, including business. The government's engagement process for the recognition and implementation of indigenous rights does not have the rigour we had expected and hoped for, for such an important issue. Those stakeholders not invited to face-to-face round tables can provide their perspectives through an email address or a Canada Post address. However, the engagement guide is still not available online—that's as of this morning—and the deadline for providing input is not clear. I was able to obtain the guide by contacting an ADM at Indigenous and Northern Affairs. That's the only way I could get it.
Canada's businesses and other stakeholders, as well as indigenous rights holders, need a principles-based, reliable, consistent framework for the governance of their relationships. Until then, we will all continue to rely on a project-by-project approach, based on what we can negotiate and not necessarily on the correct principles. Too often, as it is today, the ultimate outcome will be determined by the courts, and this is not in anyone's interests.
Improving indigenous peoples' engagement in our economy is in every Canadian's interest. Companies that have worked hard to establish and now enjoy strong relationships with indigenous communities are the most vocal on the benefits of doing so.
It's not clear to Canada's businesses and those who invest in them what the government's commitments to reconciliation with indigenous peoples mean for them. A clear, rigorous stakeholder engagement process would greatly assist. The sooner it's clear what the government's commitments mean for Canada's businesses, the better positioned they will be to deliver on sustainable economic reconciliation and the quality-of-life benefits that often accompany it.
Thanks again for the opportunity to be here this afternoon.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
My name is François Dufresne. I am the President and CEO of the Forest Stewardship Council or FSC Canada.
I would to first acknowledge that we are gathered on the unceded territory of the Algonquin peoples. FSC Canada has been welcomed onto this territory many times since our creation in 1996, and we have been honoured with their support for our work on sustainable forest management.
FSC Canada would like to recognize Mr. Saganash for introducing Bill to the Canadian public for review and debate. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has been a guidepost for our work on establishing new standards for forest certification in Canada and around the world. We would like to thank this committee for including FSC in the lineup of distinguished guests to speak on the topic of indigenous rights; free, prior, and informed consent; and UNDRIP.
I will provide a brief introduction to FSC and then I will turn the microphone over to Pamela Perreault, our coordinator of aboriginal initiatives within FSC Canada, to provide an overview of our work on indigenous rights.
FSC is a global organization that is present in more than 80 countries with 200 million hectares of certified forests around the globe. It was created in 1993 after the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit as a voluntary forest certification system. Based on a consensus obtained with social, indigenous, environmental, and economic stakeholders, we set strict standards to ensure that FSC-certified forest products are issued from responsibly managed forests. The wood fibre from certified forests is tracked to retail stores through the FSC chain of custody system. FSC-certified wood, paper, and other forest products are then sold with the FSC label by certified companies in the marketplace. With 55 million hectares, Canada has the largest area of FSC-certified forests in the world. Sixteen per cent of Canada's forests are FSC-certified, and six of the 10 largest FSC-certified forests in the world are located here in Canada.
Pamela will now explain how FSC has worked within the UNDRIP framework to craft a standard that recognizes and upholds the rights of indigenous peoples.
: Aaniin Boozhoo
. My name is Pamela Perreault and I am a member of Garden River First Nation, which is located at the centre of the three largest Great Lakes, just outside Sault Ste. Marie.
My mentors and elders have taught me the importance of full disclosure when we're talking about important topics such as our rights and responsibilities.
To begin, I am the coordinator of aboriginal initiatives for FSC Canada, but I'm also an elected councillor in my community of Garden River First Nation. I'm a mother, a wife, a sister, and an aunt. I have a degree in biology and a master's degree in science and forest management.
I also work for FSC International on the development of the global guidelines for the implementation of free, prior, and informed consent. This work has afforded me the opportunity to travel, meet, and learn from indigenous peoples around the world. My work with FSC and my approach to standard development is clearly guided and influenced by my own experience and understanding of indigenous peoples and community development.
Before we go into any further detail on our approach as FSC to FPIC and UNDRIP, I'll offer a couple of caveats.
We are not lawyers or experts in the legal interpretation of section 35 of the Constitution. We are a global, not-for-profit organization with a voluntary membership and a certification process. We do not and cannot claim to represent the voices or aspirations of indigenous peoples, but we strive to enable those voices to be heard at the national and global level.
Our national office here in Canada has a small staff that takes very seriously the responsibility of convening discussions, dialogue, and sometimes debates on hard topics. We often have been at the forefront of solution-building in terms of conservation and forest management. Our approach to caribou management and the implementation of UNDRIP are two examples. We rely on the knowledge of respected scientists, forest practitioners, indigenous peoples with expertise and experience in working with indigenous knowledge, and of course, knowledge holders themselves.
As an international organization, FSC developed the first guideline for implementing FPIC in the context of forest certification in 2012. We are currently revising those guidelines to reflect lessons learned through further research and field testing of our guidelines in 14 locations throughout the globe, including Canada.
FSC has just revised its entire standard and developed a preliminary guidance document on the implementation of FPIC in the context of Canada, which is a first for a national office within our system. This document was first released for public review in December 2017, and the second draft is now available on our website.
As far as our standard goes, I'll start with a quote from Michelangelo, who said, “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving [our] mark.”
The FSC standard for forest management certification and our efforts to protect indigenous rights affected by forest management activities is high, and we are well aware of this. But we also know that it is possible to achieve because we have examples right here in Canada of it being done. We also believe that to effect social change with positive environmental benefits, we have to set the bar high to encourage our certificate holders, forest companies, indigenous peoples, and other stakeholders involved in the certification to work harder, be more innovative, and be more compassionate.
However, it's also important to note that our system rewards this hard work through access to a growing market of informed consumers and responsive retailers. I believe some of the previous witnesses who have appeared before you have mentioned that while there might be wide support for UNDRIP, there are implementation gaps even in countries like our own with a strong legal framework that protects indigenous rights.
The question at the top of our minds might be, how do we move from legal recognition to implementation? Herein lies the work of FSC Canada. I'll start with our approach.
I have summarized our work into five broad categories. First, we lead by example by having a transparent and inclusive governance structure. Our governance structure in FSC is a reflection of the values and priorities of the organization. We use a model that we call “chamber representation”. Internationally, we have three chambers: the environment, social, and economic chambers. Here in Canada, since its inception, we have added a fourth chamber, the aboriginal chamber, to reflect the critical role of aboriginal peoples in the development and implementation of forest management standards.
Principle three on the rights of indigenous peoples has six criteria and 17 indicators related to the recognition and upholding of indigenous rights affected by forest management activities. A copy of principle three was included in our presentation package.
Our second approach is to develop a standard that is high in expectation but relatively low on prescription to allow for innovation, creativity, and relationship building. The requirement for certificate holders to obtain free and informed consent of indigenous peoples has been part of our standard since 2004. FSC revised their international indicators for certification in 2014, resulting in a significant change to our principle three on indigenous rights, which included free, prior, and informed consent. For the last four years, FSC has engaged in dialogue with experts, members of FSC, and indigenous peoples and reimagined what FPIC means in the Canadian context. Our principle three expresses to the fullest extent our understanding of the right to FPIC in a for-certification context here in Canada.
Because you might not have principle three in front of you, I'll read it out for you. Our principle states that the organization shall “identify and uphold indigenous peoples’ legal and customary rights of ownership, use and management of lands, territories, and resources affected by management activities”.
If we think of criterion indicators as a road map for achieving that principle, we have 17 of those. The one that I would like to draw people's attention to is indicator 3.2.4 that provides perhaps the most explicit direction for the protection of indigenous rights through the implementation of the right to free, prior, and informed consent. It says that free, prior, and informed consent is obtained “prior to management activities that affect their identified rights...through a process that” engages indigenous people in the assessment of “economic, social and environmental” values of forest management resource.
We document the approach of identifying the goals and aspirations of affected rights holders related to management activities. This includes a mutually agreed upon dispute resolution process. It includes a support for dialogue regarding the rights and responsibilities of indigenous peoples to those resources. The process informs affected indigenous peoples of their right to withhold consent or modify consent to the proposed management activities to the extent necessary to protect those rights, resources, lands, and territories.
Finally, the process supports decision-making by affected indigenous peoples that is free of coercion, manipulation, and intimidation.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you to our guests for being here today.
I come from northern Alberta. There's lots of forestry going on up there. I was recently at West Fraser, and they were very proud of your certification, which they had on their products up there. I'm familiar with your outfit.
One thing we're continuing to look for is how this engagement piece is going to work.
How is your organization funded? It seems that your organization is a neat apparatus to get the free, prior, and informed consent. It can say, we have this badge, and everyone knows that where this is being harvested, it has free, prior, and informed consent.
How are you funded to get to that place?
Sure. I will take this.
Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you to our guests this afternoon. It's good to see you again, Susanna. François, bienvenue. Pamela, thank you for your presentations. At least it gave me hope. The Chamber of Commerce supporting UNDRIP is fantastic news for indigenous peoples, in particular this guy here, and the use of the United Nations declaration for your organization is also great.
I want to start with you, Susanna, because I'm worried about what you said with respect to the engagement sessions that the government is holding with indigenous peoples, and is excluding business stakeholders in that process. I tend to agree with you, because the circle of engagement with respect to discussions around indigenous rights at the UN declaration has to be inclusive, and that exclusion bothers me a little bit.
Can you elaborate more on that point, and in what way have you suggested to be included in those sessions?
I will answer the first part, and Pamela will answer the technical part.
To answer your first question, FSC is a convenor of civil society. We're not economic or environmental; we're both. This also includes the aboriginal part of society and the social part, and unions, to make sure that there's no child labour in the woods, and to make sure that the ILO core conventions are applied. It's a neutral zone for civil society, as a convenor, to offer solutions for responsibly managed forests.
We use all of the expertise out there that's coming from all of these fields to build a strong standard, including what you mentioned, for sure. All four chambers in Canada have the same weight of vote when it comes to governance, so we're bound to working by consensus. Everybody has to come together with the same weight in the voting process, which makes FSC unique as a not-for-profit organization.
Our UNDRIP and FPIC approach has been designed by aboriginal people. It's not something non-aboriginal people designed. It's not something coming from me, or an expert, or a non-aboriginal. It's coming from aboriginal people first and foremost, with all the knowledge they bring to the table.
That being said, I will ask Pamela to answer the technical questions about the UN declaration.
Since I feel that I have to reply to some of what you said, in answer to some of the questions that were asked with respect to what could be changed or improved in this proposed legislation, I agree with many of the suggestions that have been made to this committee by many people. Many made suggestions for change in order to strengthen the bill and not to reduce what's being proposed. But, in general, it's a legal framework for the future. It's not a bill that proposes to change the laws that we have today. It's for the future.
If you want a new legislation on first nations' control of first nations education, then the standards are the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. That's what the legal framework is. If you're going to get rid of the Indian Act and replace it with something else, then you have the standards in the UN declaration to follow. Those are the minimum standards. That's what a legal framework means. I think we need to understand that aspect of what is being proposed here.
I agree that proposing clarity will help business, the environment. Mr. Dufresne referred to a situation in northern Quebec. I come from northern Quebec. There's a separate, distinct regime for forestry in northern Quebec, distinct from the rest of Quebec, and that's normal because the Cree territory is covered by a constitutional regime called the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. Our thoughts when we negotiated that were that if companies continued to cut the way they cut before 2002, then that industry was not going to survive. What we proposed in exchange for the Quebec regime was with the objective of maintaining that industry in northern Quebec, and our traditional territory, for the long term. That was the idea.
Does your membership view forestry development in the same way, especially in light of using it as a framework, or as a guidepost, to use your expression? Do they view forestry development in that way with a long-term vision of that type of development?