Many Indigenous people want a strong resource industry so that we can continue to expand our investments in, and benefits from, development – as employees, as partners and as owners. We are not against development; but we will no longer be bystanders to it.
Our goal is to defeat poverty and generate our own revenues in order to actually exercise self-determination. By crippling the energy industry, Bills C-48 & C-69 are a tremendous threat to our continued ability to improve the well-being, health prosperity of our people.
The Government is calling on project proponents to outline the health, social and economic effects of their developments on Indigenous communities. But these bills have significant negative impacts in themselves.
Unemployment leads to an increase in anxiety, substance abuse and suicide, especially among working age men; physiological problems including cardiovascular issues and digestive disorders; a rise in family and intimate partner violence; and greater difficulty in re-entering the workforce due to exacerbated health issues.
Our people have lost business contracts and employment and our nations have lost royalty revenue due to a lack of pipeline capacity and the resultant price differential – Our people have lost more than $18,000 per family per year for oil and gas producing First Nations since 2012. The economic situation will only worsen should Bill C-48 and C-69 be passed.
As reaffirmed in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, First Nations have not just the right “to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories” (Article 32) but also the right to “freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development” (Article 3), be “secure in the enjoyment of their own means of subsistence and development”, and “to engage freely in all their traditional and other economic activities” (Article 20). Bills C-48 and C-69 will severely impede our efforts at economic and social development by imposing burdensome processes and uncertainty on our investments and opportunities.
If the Government is intent on passing some kind of impact assessment legislation, we hope it is to improve the regulatory process, not to sabotage future resource development by embroiling it in inevitable court challenges.
There are specific provisions of Bill C-69 that infringe on First Nations and Métis rights that we take exception to:
Public Participation & Standing: Reinstate a test for standing to ensure only those of us directly affected by a project can participate in its assessment.
Pre-Approval Engagement: Clarify that proponents and affected communities can indeed consult and negotiate with one another before regulatory approval is granted.
Political Interference: Restrict the excessive scope for political interference in the legislation by ensuring the independence of regulatory bodies and abiding by due process.
Economic Benefits Not Considered: Add a specific requirement that review panels must consider the economic benefits of a project for Indigenous peoples.
We are not in favour of indiscriminate development that damages the environment, or our people’s health and safety. We have been stewards of our territory for thousands of years and we take that responsibility very seriously. But our people want the dignity of work. We reject the indignity of dependence. We are intent on taking control of our livelihoods and asserting our rights. We ask that the federal government stop putting up barriers that prevent us from fulfilling these intentions.
A moratorium is an unnecessarily sweeping tool. It says that there is no balance to be achieved between economic development and environmental protection, that it’s one or the other. But we reject that.
Communities, companies and scientists can work together to find some middle ground for sustainable development if the federal government does not shut that door on us. We need market access for our resources. We need tankers to be able to ship our products.