First Nations must be full partners in Canada’s new pipeline review process

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde

(Ottawa, ON) – First Nations must be full partners in the review, decision-making and regulation of pipelines, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde and Alberta Regional Chief Craig Mackinaw told the Senate Committee on Transport, calling for an overhaul of the National Energy Board process and the Pipeline Safety Act.

“Canada needs a national energy strategy that involves Indigenous peoples at every step,” said National Chief Bellegarde on June 14. “We must make sure Indigenous peoples are involved in the design and delivery of any law or policy to find balance in federal regulation of energy resources.”

Alberta Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Mackinaw said, “Under the current system, First Nations are treated as bystanders, which is not in keeping with our inherent jurisdiction over these lands and our right to self-determination. First Nations must be full partners in the approval and regulation of pipelines, and you need us to help re-design the current broken system.”

Regional Chief Mackinaw stated that First Nations are neither always for, nor always against, development but want development to be responsible, sustainable and fully respectful of First Nations rights. “We have perspectives on all sides of the debate, just as there is nationally and globally, about where the balance lies between environmental protection and economic development. What Canada needs is a regulatory approvals process that ensures meaningful dialogue between First Nations, project proponents and the Crown.”

Under the current review process, the Regional Chief noted that First Nations are forced to undertake lengthy and costly court battles to ensure respect for First Nations rights: “Consent is already a firmly established concept in Canadian law.  The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adds that consent must be ‘free’, ‘prior’ and ‘informed’.  This shouldn’t be revolutionary. Of course, consent isn’t valid if it’s obtained by coercion. What is needed is a regulatory approvals process which ensures that First Nations can make informed decisions about development, and that the information provided by project proponents and by the Crown is relevant to the rights, interests and aspirations of First Nations.” 

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