OPEN LETTER: Federal Announcement of the Responsible Resource Development Plan (April 17th, 2012)

Dear Minister Oliver:

We are writing with respect to your government’s shocking announcement to completely gut the environmental assessment process. We are gravely concerned with this announcement to eviscerate the process for environmental review on resource development projects after the changes lay waste to the credibility of the process. These environmental laws and the associated processes do not replace the judicially-recognized and constitutionally-protected Aboriginal Title, Rights and Treaty Rights, but are vital parts of the Crown’s relationship with First Nations. Fundamental changes to the environmental assessment process and other environmental protection laws can only be undertaken with meaningful consultation with First Nations. We urge the federal governmental to work with First Nations to improve environmental protections rather than weaken them with the reduction of assessment timelines and the reduction of required organizations responsible for such reviews.

First Nations have legal and constitutionally protected rights and responsibilities to protect their traditional territories and all that this encompasses, and are not merely stakeholders in resource development projects. Both domestic and international law recognize the importance of Indigenous Peoples’ relationship to resources and all activities that take place on our traditional territories. A recent report by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination emphasized the need for Canada to include Indigenous peoples in decision making, recommending that Canada “Implement in good faith the right to consultation and to free, prior and informed consent of Aboriginal peoples whenever their rights may be affected by projects carried out on their lands, as set forth in international standards and the State party’s legislation.” Further, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples sets out in Article 26(1) that “Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied, or otherwise used or acquired.” We fully expect Canada to uphold its commitment to this important international doctrine.