Canada in Hot Seat for Resource Policies at UN Racial Discrimination Hearing
By James Wilt | August 16, 2017
Indigenous leaders from northern British Columbia are calling on the UN to investigate whether ongoing industrial development of Indigenous lands and waters constitutes a violation of UN conventions this week.
Canada is up for review by the UN International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. In a submission, tribes from B.C.’s northwest said Canada’s environmental assessment laws continue to measure money instead of impact.
One of the signatories is Deneza Na’Moks (John Ridsdale), a hereditary chief of the Wet’suwet’en. He travelled to the UN on the heels of the recent approval and then cancellation of Petronas’ plans to build a pipeline and the Pacific NorthWest liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in the Skeena River estuary.
The project and its approval point squarely back to failures in Canada’s environmental assessment process and a lack of recognition of Indigenous nationhood, the committee heard.
“We asked [the Committee] to use any force that they can to get Canada to uphold support and use the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP),” Ridsdale told DeSmog Canada.
The project was approved, despite concerns from scientists about it being sited in critical juvenile salmon habitat and about the plant’s enormous greenhouse gas footprint (if built, the plant would have been the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada).
Petronas announced the cancellation of the project in late July, citing “market conditions.”
“The cancellation of one project because of poor gas prices does nothing to address the underlying legal issues that will plague any project that threatens the wild salmon,” said Kirby Muldoe, a member of the delegation of Tsimsian and Gitxsan descent.
Site C Dam Puts Canadian Government in Hot Seat
Much of the committee’s attention was paid to the issue of the controversial Site C dam under construction in northeast B.C.
The committee saw the issue of Site C as “emblematic of a deeply disturbing disrespect for the rights of Indigenous peoples,” Craig Benjamin from Amnesty International told DeSmog Canada. “The attention that the committee gave to Site C was in my mind unprecedented.”
Robyn Fuller, councillor for West Moberly First Nation, made an especially fiery presentation to the committee.
“We will no longer allow our people to be poisoned, starved, and pushed aside as if we do not matter,” she said. “We do not only fight for ourselves, we fight for our future generations to continue our way of life long after we have left this world.”
Benjamin said members of the committee spoke at “incredible lengths” on the rights violations associated with the project, including impacts on cultural heritage, failure to respect “free, prior and informed consent,” violations of Treaty 8 and barriers to accessing justice.
However, the delegation representing the Government of Canada — made up of civil servants from a variety of departments — didn’t include a single mention of Site C in their initial response.
When Government of Canada delegates were asked by the UN Committee about the omission, it was chalked up as an “oversight.”
Benjamin said that when they did provide a response, it was fundamentally wrong, contradicting what the Government of Canada’s lawyers told the courts.
“At what point does the Trudeau government have to admit that their movement on implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples does not match up with their actions?” Candace Batycki, program director at Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, told DeSmog Canada. …
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