Court victory in Inuit rights case a wake-up call for urgently needed overhaul of how government makes decisions on resource development in Canada
Amnesty International is standing with the Inuit people of Clyde River in celebrating a Supreme Court ruling that represents a victory not only for this community and its future, but an important opportunity to bring Canadian law in line with international human rights standards.
The case is about a decision by the National Energy Board of Canada (NEB) to allow a group of multinational corporations to carry out oil and gas exploration off Baffin Island. The Hamlet of Clyde River and the Nammautaq Hunters and Trappers Organization alleged that the government regulatory body failed to properly involve community members in the decision-making process and did not giver adequate attention to Inuit concerns over the impact of seismic testing on the marine animals on which their food, economy and culture depend.
In a unanimous decision released today, the Supreme Court overturned the approval for seismic testing, finding that the “significantly flawed” decision-making process did not meet the standard of consultation required by the Constitutional protection of Inuit rights.
“For far too long, the governments in Canada and their regulatory bodies have treated consultation with Indigenous peoples as a mere formality,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General Amnesty International Canada. “The cursory efforts made to engage with Inuit communities before approving oil and gas exploration off Baffin Island illustrates the deep flaws in this approach. With today’s decision, the Supreme Court has highlighted both the ultimate responsibility of government to ensure that Indigenous rights are protected and the urgent need to correct the course of how decisions are currently made.
We hope that the federal government will take this ruling seriously and work with Indigenous peoples to bring the regulatory process in line to the rigorous standard of protection for the cultures and livelihoods of Indigenous peoples required by the Constitution and by Canada’s public commitment to uphold the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
Today’s decision comes in the midst of an ongoing federal government review of the National Energy Board and other components of how decisions are made around resource development in Canada.
In its decision on Clyde River, the Supreme Court stated, “A project authorization that breaches the constitutionally protected rights of Indigenous peoples cannot serve the public interest.”
Speaking at a press conference with Jerry Natanine, the Inuit leader who launched the Clyde River case, Alex Neve said, “Amnesty International congratulates the people of Clyde River on their strength and persistence in taking this case all the way to the Supreme Court. In doing so, they have won a tremendous victory for human rights that should ultimately benefit all Indigenous peoples across Canada.
The crucial thing now is to ensure that Indigenous peoples do not have to continually turn to the courts to protect their rights. The UN Declaration provide a roadmap for how Indigenous rights should be upheld. Implementation of the key provision of free, prior and informed consent would both avoid future conflicts and ensure that a rigorous standard of protection of Indigenous rights is always met.”
For more information, please contact: Craig Benjamin, Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Amnesty International Canada
613-744-7667, ext 235