Mr. Speaker, in December 2018, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights sent a letter to the government asking that the construction of the Site C dam be stopped until prior, informed consent was given to the project by first nations.
The Site C dam had large opposition from all the first nations in the region, but after it was approved by the provincial government, a number of first nations conceded. Conceding is not giving consent and there are two first nations that are fighting this in the courts right now.
The government promised it would implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Article 32 states:
1. 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.
2. States shall consult and cooperate 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.
The Speech from the Throne dedicated a section to “Walking the Road of Reconciliation”, highlighting that since 2015 the government “promised a new relationship with Indigenous Peoples”.
However, on December 13, 2019, the United Nations committee on the elimination of racial discrimination, through the high commissioner's office, published an early warning and urgent action procedure to the government, urging the government to suspend three projects that neglect the rights of indigenous peoples: the Site C dam, the Trans Mountain pipeline extension and the Coastal GasLink until these projects obtain free, prior and informed consent by all indigenous people affected.
I would like to remind the government of the Delgamuukw decision. Under section 35 of the Constitution, aboriginal rights and titles are affirmed. In the Delgamuukw, it was hereditary chiefs who were the plaintiffs in that case. It was not the elected band councillors who are part of the Indian Act system that was created through colonization.
The chiefs and band councillors have a role to play. They are a legitimate form of government, but it is the hereditary chiefs who are recognized in the Constitution and in the Supreme Court decision.
The Tsilhqot’in decision reaffirms that it must be the first nations that determine how aboriginal rights and titles are determined. The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination calls upon Canada to:
...immediately cease construction of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project and cancel all permits, until free, prior and informed consent is obtained by all the Secwepemc people....
...immediately suspend the construction of the Site C dam, until free, prior and informed consent is obtained from West Moberly and Prophet River Nations....
...immediately halt the construction and suspend all permits and approvals for the construction of the Coastal Gas Link pipeline in the traditional and unceded lands and territories of the Wet'suwet'en people, until they grant their free, prior and informed consent....
They proposed an alternate route for that pipeline.
They are also calling on the government to pull back the RCMP and to ensure that it does not use force against indigenous first nations, the hereditary chiefs and their decision to affirm their rights and sovereignty over their lands.