MEDIA RELEASE April 10, 2014
Federal and provincial governments must not ignore human rights in decisions about pipelines and other energy infrastructure
Downplaying the human rights of Indigenous peoples will only exacerbate conflict over pipeline development in British Columbia.
In a joint submission tabled with the Prime Minister’s office last month, 11 human rights and Indigenous peoples’ organizations, including the BC Assembly of First Nations, First Nations Summit, and Union of BC Indian Chiefs, caution that development of energy infrastructure such as pipelines can have far-reaching effects on Indigenous rights protected under the Canadian Constitution and international law.
The joint submission responds to two reports currently being reviewed by the federal cabinet: the report of the Prime Minister’s special representative on West Coast energy infrastructure, Douglas Eyford and the report of the environmental assessment panel for the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.
While these two reports acknowledge that Indigenous peoples’ rights are at stake in decisions about whether or not to approve pipelines and other projects, neither adequately addresses the legal framework for safeguarding these rights and neither accommodates a human rights-based approach.
“The federal government should be careful about taking guidance from any report that fails to fully and accurately address the rights of Indigenous peoples,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs. “Failure to respect and protect Indigenous peoples’ human rights from the outset guarantees prolonged conflict and a compounding of historic injustices. This is contrary to the fundamental obligation of governments to uphold the human rights of all, without discrimination.”
In two landmark British Columbia cases, Delgamuukw and Haida Nation, the Supreme Court affirmed that governments have a mandatory duty to consult in good faith with Indigenous peoples on decisions affecting their rights and that this includes an obligation to obtain consent on “very serious issues”.
This existing protection in Canadian law is reinforced by a large body of international human rights law, particularly in the context of resource development, which sets out a duty to obtain the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples.
“It’s crucial that all decisions about sustainable development in Canada live up to human rights protections set out in both Canadian and international law,” said Kenneth Deer, Indigenous World Association, “In the case of projects like the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, the scale of the project and the seriousness of Indigenous peoples’ concerns mean that the appropriate standard is for the project to proceed only with consent.”
“In order to have good faith consultation and accommodation, the government has to be prepared to accept a wide range of possible outcomes, from a project being considerably modified or delayed, to its being rejected altogether,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada.
Grand Chief Edward John, First Nations Summit, said, “It’s not acceptable for government to look at a proposed project and say that from its perspective the potential impacts aren’t serious or our rights and jurisdiction can be circumvented. The legal duty to obtain consent is a protective measure to ensure that the priorities and concerns of Indigenous peoples are given full consideration and that the biases of government don’t trump human rights.”
“Indigenous peoples’ governance and jurisdiction are real and must be substantively accommodated, not avoided. Principles of justice, equality and good governance require no less. Our inherent rights and jurisdiction are affirmed in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international human rights law.”
BCAFN Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould commented, “There is no question that the federal government has weakened environmental laws and federal oversight to the detriment of Indigenous Peoples. Moreover, by seeking to redefine the rights of Indigenous peoples in Canadian and international law to minimize its own responsibilities, Canada is not only doing disservice to Indigenous Peoples but to all Canadians.” She added, “First Nations are not, in principle, opposed to major resource development but not at any cost nor without Indigenous rights being addressed. The economic future of First Nations, BC and Canada are intertwined and the federal government should know by now that their current approach only deepens conflict, rather than promoting reconciliation and ensuring economic prosperity for all.”
-Media inquiries, please contact:
Director of Operations
BC Assembly of First Nations
Grand Chief Edward John
Political Executive, First Nations Summit
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
President, Union of BC Indian Chiefs
Amnesty International Canada
416-363-9933 ext 332
Download this media release.
Download the joint response “Resource development in western Canada: Indigenous peoples’ human rights must be respected”.
In this month’s installment of the CFSC e-news you’ll find:
- New information about CFSC individual grants,
- CCJC conference “Acting on Faith”,
- EACOM Timber says no to conflict wood from Grassy Narrows Territory,
- CFSC’s efforts to ensure support for the recommendations from Ashely Smith inquest,
- An interview with Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta on her book Refusing to be Enemies,
- This Light that Pushes Me – a new book about Quaker peaceworkers in nine African countries,
- Hope in Hell – an article about the prison chaplaincy work of Kate Johnson, and
- QCEA seeks Programme Assistant
We had a busy weekend – you can read all about it in the March e-news, as well as:
- A reminder to file your Peace Tax Return (www.consciencecanada.ca);
- Two job postings from QUNO Geneva;
- Updates on a nuclear weapons ban, conscientious objection to war, and more!
Canadian Friends Service Committee has been facilitating a consultation and discernment process with Quakers from across Canada around issues raised by synthetic biology. Below is an article written by CFSC board member Fred Bass (Vancouver Monthly Meeting) which originally appeared in The Canadian Friend (reprinted here with permission). For more about these issues, read the Synthetic Biology Kit or contact us.
Move over, Nature (and God)—Synthetic Biology to the rescue!
Homo evolutis , published in 2010, celebrates synthetic biology. It names and defines the species that is about to succeed us, “a hominid that directly and deliberately controls evolution of its own and other species.”
So what is synthetic biology? It’s a new field that combines genetics, engineering, laboratory and computer science to produce new forms of life to meet human needs, such as food, fuel, pharmaceuticals, pollution control, cosmetics and information processing.
Synthetic biology doesn’t just change genes of existing creatures — it creates new creatures… new bacteria, plants, animals and perhaps people. Proudly and immodestly, Nature’s laboratory — evolution — may soon be replaced by science and technology.
Who’s involved? Researchers and academics around the world, including MIT, Harvard, U. Cal and many more, supported by major corporate investment and a little funding from government. The world’s largest chemical, energy, grain-trading and pharmaceutical companies, e.g. Monsanto, DuPont, British Petroleum, Shell, Novartis and International Flavours & Fragrances, have invested billions of dollars in synthetic biology. Government participation and regulation have been minimal, nationally and internationally.
What resources does synthetic biology require? Universities’ students, faculties and facilities and corporate research laboratories are essential. To capitalize on what is learned will require massive amounts of biomass (earth’s biological productivity: plants, soil, plankton, forests, etc). Large quantities of land in Africa, Asia and Latin American have already been purchased by corporations (& some universities) to gain access to biomass, water and other resources . This acquisition is displacing local, traditional agriculture.
What social justice and ecological issues does synthetic biology present? A few are obvious: agricultural land grabbing, prioritizing cosmetics over food, defining the roles of the public and private sectors, solving safety issues and maintaining the health of natural ecosystems. How can potential threats from synthetic biology be prevented while gaining its benefits? More than 100 international, environmental, social & faith organizations (including the Biotechnology Reference Group of the Canadian Council of Churches [BRG/CCC]) have called for implementing the Precautionary Principle before releasing synthetic biology products for sale. This would include independent supervision of synthetic biology research and development, establishing safety measures, surveillance and protection against unintended effects.
Canadian Yearly Meeting in 2012 affirmed three actions in regard to synthetic biology: 1) Asking the BRG/CCC to raise, among all faith groups, awareness of the social and ecological issues related to development of this field. 2) Asking the Canadian Friends Service Committee (CFSC) to provide Canadian Monthly Meetings with basic information and alternative perspectives so 3) they could address three queries (How can the benefits of synthetic biology be applied equitably? How can damaging consequences to eco- and social systems be foreseen and forestalled? Are there zones of activity that should be set off limits for synthetic biology?).
CFSC has prepared an Information Kit (available at http://quakerservice.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/2013-CFSC-Synthetic-Biology-Kit.pdf). The Kit identifies (pages 2-3) four relevant Quaker-Institute-for-the-Future booklets (#2, 3, 5, 6). Sets of these were distributed to Monthly Meetings; each can be downloaded (see links in Kit). Appendix One summarizes QIF #2 Genetically Modified Crops: Promises, Perils, and the Need for Public Policy.
For a brief update on synthetic biology, please see both of the following links:
-from the proponents of synthetic biology: http://synberc.org/content/synthetic-biology-ted, and the book by George Church: Regenesis Mar 2013
-from those cautious about synthetic biology: http://www.etcgroup.org/resources, especially Synthetic Biology: The Bioeconomy of Landlessness and Hunger June, 2013
Many people feel reluctant to comment on synthetic biology because it appears to demand highly complex and technical knowledge . Quakers, more than many people, recognize other means of knowing — particularly when ethical issues are concerned — a direct, non-mediated wisdom derived from the inner power that lies within .
Ursula Franklin, a prominent Quaker and research physicist, noted that technology comprises more than machines or gadgets. It is a comprehensive system that involves “organization, procedures, symbols, new words, equations, and, most of all, a mindset.”  That system in Franklin’s view, is bent on “turning the globe into one giant commercial resource base, while denying a decent and appropriate habitat to many of the world’s citizens.”  Franklin also maintains that the uses of technology should not be preordained but adopted as a result of conscious choices. 
In a democratic society, this means choice by an informed public. And that includes you. A Special Interest Group on Synthetic Biology is planned for the 2014 Canadian Yearly Meeting in Winnipeg.
Fred Bass, Vancouver Monthly Meeting
 Enriques, Juan; Gullans, Steve: Homo evolutis New Word City (on-line publisher) 2010
 Personal communication (2013), Tim Bartoo, member of Vancouver Monthly Meeting
 Tim Bartoo, ibid.
 Franklin, Ursula. (1992) The Real World of Technology. (CBC Massey lectures series.) Concord, ON: House of Anansi Press Limited. ISBN 0-88784-531-2, p 12
 Franklin, Ursula. (2006) The Ursula Franklin Reader: Pacifism as a Map. Toronto: Between the Lines Books. ISBN 1-897071-18-3, p 288
 Franklin, Ursula. (1992) ibid, p 192
We’re pleased to bring you Quaker Concern Volume 40, Number 1 featuring news, updates, and articles about the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s title case at the Supreme Court of Canada, a pilot youth justice project, and our work in support of the International Middle East Media Center project in Palestine.