Resource development must respect Indigenous rights

Five years ago, on 13 September 2007, the United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to provide “minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world.” Although Canada formally endorsed the Declaration in 2010, the federal government has not worked with Indigenous peoples to ensure its implementation. Instead, in its efforts to promote resource development in Canada and abroad, the government has undermined vital human rights protected in the Declaration.
Luis Evelis Andrade, Chief Counsellor of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), said, “The government of Canada has backed the expansion of Canadian corporations in Colombia without regard for the context of war and grave human rights violations in the resource-rich territory of Indigenous peoples.”

The ONIC leader, who is in Canada to focus attention on the dire threats to the physical and cultural survival of Indigenous peoples in Colombia, said, “It’s important for Canadians to understand that far too often our rights are pushed aside, and we are denied access to the clean water, food security and healthy environment that are indispensable to our survival.”

In a joint statement released today, Indigenous peoples’ and human rights organizations are urging governments in Canada to respect the right of Indigenous peoples to determine for themselves when, and under what conditions, resource development will be carried out affecting their lands and territories. The joint statement calls on governments in Canada to:

  • Ensure that all processes to review and license resource development activities in Canada are consistent with the constitutional obligation to protect inherent Aboriginal and Treaty rights and with international human rights standards, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
  • Recognize free, prior and informed consent as an essential human rights safeguard, consistent with Indigenous peoples’ rights under Canadian constitutional and international human rights law.
  • Implement measures, consistent with the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, to ensure the accountability of Canadian corporations operating on the lands of Indigenous peoples in other countries.
  • Support the calls for the UN Special Advisor for the Prevention of Genocide to visit Colombia as part of an independent assessment of the emergency situation facing Indigenous peoples in that country.