OTTAWA, June 18, 2019 /CNW/ - Following the federal government's decision today on the TransMountain pipeline expansion project, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde says First Nations will ensure their rights, title and jurisdiction are respected and the federal government must respect these rights.
"First Nations are not mere stakeholders. We are the rights and title holders and our rights, title and jurisdiction must be respected," said AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde. "It's clear First Nations have different positions on this project but they all stand firm that their rights be respected and their traditional territories be protected. Only First Nations can determine if those conditions are met. The government needs to engage fully with First Nations – to uphold rights and for the basis of good business. This entire situation is an important reminder why the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and free, prior and informed consent is the way forward. It's the way we avoid conflict, lengthy and costly court cases. It's how we create peaceful approaches and economic certainty for everyone."
The Government of Canada originally approved the TransMountain pipeline expansion project in November 2016. In July 2018, the Federal Court ruled the Government of Canada must consult with Indigenous peoples and groups and conduct a marine-related environmental assessment. At the same time, The National Energy Board was instructed to reassess the project, including the impact of increased oil tanker traffic. The Government of Canada purchased the pipeline for $4.5 billion in May 2018.
The Government of Canada committed to implementing the UN Declaration in 2010. The UN Declaration implementation act, Bill C-262, is currently in the Senate and is central to honouring that promise. National Chief Bellegarde, among others, have been urging this bill is passed before the end of the current parliamentary session to give life to the Declaration and to further enforce free, prior and informed consent as the basic standard of approaches to development.
"Implementing and enforcing free, prior and informed consent will ensure that governments, business and First Nations are onboard and onside before any development begins," said National Chief Bellegarde. "Implementing this basic international standard should not delay development. It's a way forward and a way to better ensure economic certainty. Avoiding it actually creates economic instability for the country."
The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.
SOURCE Assembly of First Nations
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