WENDAKE, QC, March 9, 2016 /CNW Telbec/ - The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) has monitored very closely the latest legal developments in connection with the legal proceedings filed by the Government of Quebec and by the Centre québécois du droit de l'environnement to force TransCanada to comply with Quebec's regulations in the Energy East project.
The Government of Quebec having decided to exercise its authority in this file, the AFNQL wishes to remind the government of the jurisdiction that is proper to the First Nations and which must also apply in this context.
In this sense, the AFNQL demands the government to develop, in conjunction with the First Nations, a process that is separate from the public consultation conducted by the BAPE, and which is specific to First Nations and adapted to the reality and the jurisdiction applying to them. The actions of Quebec in the Energy East project must in fact comply with its constitutional obligations towards the First Nations.
It is in this sense that a letter, clearly setting out the position of the AFNQL was transmitted on March 4, 2016 to Mr. David Heurtel, Minister of the Environment, Sustainable Development and Fight against Climate Change. In this letter, Chief Ghislain Picard asks the Minister to organize a meeting in order to determine methods of consulting that are proper to First Nations and which must apply in this file.
"Our link to the government is unique. It is unacceptable that the Government of Quebec takes unilateral action in this file without any discussions with the First Nations who are in fact extremely concerned by the Energy East project. A meeting with Minister Heurtel is paramount", states the Chief of AFNQL, Ghislain Picard.
The aboriginal title, the aboriginal and treaty rights of the First Nations are recognized and affirmed in section 35 of Canada's Constitution Act, 1982 and by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of September 13, 2007 (adopted by the United Nations General Assembly and ratified by Canada on November 12, 2010. In fact, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to finally implement the Declaration in Canada.
Aboriginal Peoples have the right to define and establish priorities and strategies for the development and the use of their lands or territories and other resources; and
the governments must get the consent of Indigenous Peoples, given freely and in an informed manner, before authorizing any development project.
The AFNQL unequivocally advocate the right of a First Nation to consent or not consent in a prior, free and informed manner to the Energy East project, in regard to its impacts on the territory, the way of life or the rights of the First Nation. Effectively, the AFNQL has adopted a resolution in June 2015 supporting the right of the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake to say NO to the pipeline.
Regarding the question of powers that Quebec wishes to apply in this file, the AFNQL recalls through this communication that this exercise must absolutely respect the obligations of consultation and accommodation towards the First Nations. To this effect, the AFNQL wishes to stress that the recent judgment Coastal First Nations v. British Columbia (Environment)1, the Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled that the province had failed to its responsibilities by ceding the assessment of the Northern Gateway pipeline project to the National Energy Board (NEB), and that the province had also infringed its obligation to consult the First Nations.
Therefore, to date, the Government of Quebec made no statement whatsoever as to the approaches it commits to undertake to meet its obligation to consult the First Nations. The AFNQL therefore urges Minister Heurtel to meet immediately with the Chiefs of the First Nations of Quebec in order to make sure the latter and the Government of Quebec engage on the right path, regarding the assessment of the Energy East project and to make sure the government meet its obligation to consult the First Nations. This meeting shall address, amongst others, the problematic issue of the current process of the Bureau d'audiences publique sur l'environnement (BAPE).
In addition, the AFNQL considers it critical that any assessment of the Energy East project, including any assessment within the scope of BAPE, takes into account the expansion of oil sands that the pipeline would make possible as well as the impacts that such an expansion would have on the fight against climate change. First Nations are those who are the most directly affected by climate changes, which changes modify our lifestyles based on age-old practices, customs and values.
The AFNQL emphasizes once again: the Government of Quebec cannot pursue its assessment of the Energy East project without an immediate meeting with the First Nations.
About the AFNQL
The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador is the political organization of 43 Chiefs of the First Nations in Quebec and Labrador. www.apnql-afnql.com
1 Coastal First Nations v. British Columbia (Environment) 2016 BCSC 34
SOURCE Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador
For further information: Mélanie Vincent, firstname.lastname@example.org, Cell.: 418-580-4442