By James Wilt.
When it comes to the rights of Indigenous peoples, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talks a really good talk. A close look at new laws that will dictate how major resource projects are reviewed, however, suggest he wants to leave himself a lot of wiggle room when it comes to walking the walk.
The week before Trudeau was lauded for a speech in the House of Commons that promised of a new legal framework for Indigenous people, his government released two long-awaited pieces of environmental legislation. Initial reactions were cautiously optimistic.
But now that the dust has settled, it’s clear that matching words to action is often an exercise in optimistic romanticism. Bill C-69 — which will overhaul the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, National Energy Board Act and Navigable Waters Act — mostly restores protections to how they were before the Harper Conservatives decimated them in 2012, but little has been done to truly modernize processes….
Unfortunately, the same appears to be true about what the new legislation means for how Indigenous peoples and communities will be included in future environmental assessments and protection planning: rather than tightening the rules to make ministers more accountable for upholding First Nations’ rights, the new laws give them broad discretion at every turn. “Looking at the bill itself, we don’t really see the robust impact-assessment, sustainability framework that was promised,” said Sara Mainville, partner at OKT Law and former chief of northwest Ontario’s Couchiching First Nation.
…A central ingredient in that recipe was dealing with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which contains the principle of “free, prior, and informed consent.” But there wasn’t a single mention of UNDRIP in the bill.