Report by James Anaya, the UN's secial rapporteur, says there's a 'crisis' in Canada
By Peter O'Neil, Vancouver Sun
OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper could narrow the gulf of mistrust with aboriginal peoples by blocking major resource projects including two proposed pipeline megaprojects to the B.C. coast — unless First Nations consent to construction, the United Nations said Monday.
A report by James Anaya, the UN’s special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said there is a “crisis” in Canada and that the level of mistrust has perhaps worsened in the past decade.
Anaya put the two oilsands pipeline megaprojects Enbridge’s to Kitimat and Kinder Morgan Canada’s to Burnaby at the top of a long list of economic proposals that have drawn bitter complaints from aboriginal leaders Anaya met during a fact-finding mission last year.
Anaya, an American indigenous rights scholar and nominee for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, said the government doesn’t have a coherent plan to meet its Supreme Court of Canada-mandated obligations to consult and accommodate First Nations before major projects proceed.
“There appears to be a lack of a consistent framework or policy for the implementation of this duty to consult, which is contributing to an atmosphere of contentiousness and mistrust that is conducive neither to beneficial economic development nor social peace,” Anaya wrote.
One of his recommendations calls on the federal government to set a clear policy on consultation and accommodation.
“In accordance with the Canadian constitution and relevant international human rights standards, as a general rule resource extraction should not occur on lands subject to aboriginal claims without adequate consultations with, and the free, prior and informed consent of, the indigenous peoples concerned,” states Anaya in his report that was released in Geneva Monday.
In a Vancouver Sun interview last year he said “free, prior and informed consent” didn’t mean an absolute aboriginal veto on resource projects. But he said the commitment does require governments and sometimes companies to engage in “consensus-based decision-making with genuine dialogue among all concerned.”
The report also lists the Site C hydroelectric dam project on the Peace River, gas drilling and pipeline construction in northeastern B.C. on Treaty 8 nations’ traditional territory, and the attempts by Taseko Mines and Fortune Minerals to build mines on unceded traditional First Nations territory in B.C.
The report also criticized the federal environmental review panels, saying the panelists are perceived by First Nations as having “little understanding of aboriginal rights jurisprudence or concepts.”
Anaya had a number of other tough criticisms:
• He called on the Harper to reverse his position and call for a “comprehensive, nationwide inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal woman and girls, organized in consultation with indigenous peoples.”
• He said the federal government needs to improve its handing of land claims across Canada and especially in B.C., where many First Nations are deeply in debt and utterly frustrated over federal negotiating tactics.
But Anaya also found some positive developments, including the agreement late last year to establish a B.C. First Nations Health Authority. He called that a potential model for other jurisdictions.
Anaya, a professor of human rights law and policy at the University of Arizona, will conclude his term at the UN next month. He is being replaced by Vicky Tauli-Corpuz of the Philippines.