Amnesty International submission to the environmental impact assessment of the proposed New Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine
If the review of the proposed New Prosperity Copper-Gold Mine project is to be conducted and determined in manner that is consistent with Canadian and international law, it must recognize Indigenous peoples' customary rights to their traditional lands, and treat the protection of these rights with the utmost seriousness.
In this submission, Amnesty International draws the Panel’s attention to the following principles which we demonstrate are well-established in law:
- Indigenous peoples’ customary rights to lands and resources must be protected, with due consideration given to Indigenous peoples’ own legal traditions and land tenure systems, even where the national or local governments have not yet agreed to formal legal recognition of these rights;
- The vital importance of lands, territories and resources to Indigenous peoples’ culture, health, well-being and other rights protected in international law requires a very high standard of precaution in all decisions potentially affecting Indigenous peoples’ ownership and use of their traditional lands;
- Efforts to appropriately reconcile the rights of Indigenous peoples with other social imperatives must take into account the distinct contemporary situation of Indigenous peoples, including the unresolved legacy of past violations and heightened risk of further harm resulting from continued marginalization and discrimination;
- To achieve the standard of protection necessitated by Indigenous peoples’ distinct relationship to their land and their unique circumstances, Indigenous peoples must be meaningfully involved in the decision-making process so that their experience, knowledge, expertise and values can inform the outcome; and
- In instances where there is potential for significant harm, projects should proceed only with the free, prior and informed consent of the affected peoples.
In Amnesty International’s view, these international standards, which also find expression in Canadian law, are relevant and applicable to the interpretation and application of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act wherever the rights and interests of Aboriginal peoples are in issue.