Respecting consent of Indigenous peoples an urgent priority
Respect for Indigenous peoples' right of free, prior and informed (FPIC) must be a matter of urgent priority for any government committed to a respectful relationship with Indigenous peoples.
This is part of a message to the the new Prime Minister and his Cabinet from Indigenous peoples' organizations, human rights groups, environmentalists and others.
In an open letter sent today, 16 organizations from across Canada called on the federal government to collaborate with Indigenous Peoples’ governments and organizations to ensure that:
- Federal laws, regulations and policies – especially those dealing with resource development – are reformed to ensure that the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous Peoples is required for any decisions that have the potential for serious impacts on the environment and on their rights.
- Government support for corporate activities in Canada and internationally, whether in the form of tax credits, grants, loans, or political and diplomatic support, will be contingent on their actions being consistent with international human rights standards including FPIC.
The letter describes FPIC as "the right of Indigenous Peoples to say ‘no’ to the imposition of decisions that would further compound the marginalization, impoverishment and dispossession to which they have been subjected throughout history. FPIC is also the power to say ‘yes’ to mutually beneficially initiatives that can promote healthy and vital Indigenous Nations for the benefit of present and future generations."
The letter states that while the previous federal government strenously denied any responsibility to respect FPIC, "the world has moved ahead without us." Examples given include the adoption of FPIC requirements by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), International Council on Mining and Metals, and the Forest Stewardship Council among others.
The report states that violations of Indigenous rights, often justifiedin the name of development and economic growth, has created "needless, prolonged conflicts. This has forestalled opportunities for Indigenous Peoples to work cooperatively with federal, provincial and territorial governments to advance mutually agreed upon and mutually beneficial objectives, including community development."