Saturday, 4 June 2016

FPIC, Canada, and yet another pipeline

The debate on the meaning of free, prior and informed consent  (FPIC) within the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples has centered around whether this gave indigenous groups the right to veto proposed projects, or whether the obligation to obtain consent simply was a mask for a consultation process—where the final views of the indigenous group did not carry any authority for a rejection of a project. 

With the recent announcement in May of the Canadian government’s intention to fully implement the provisions of the UNDRIP, the question of what position it might take on the contested meaning of FPIC becomes more than mere rhetorical speculation.

This becomes a key question as to whether a proposed pipeline project will proceed. An expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline is opposed by the “The Stó:lō collective of First Nations in British Columbia”. The SupremeCourt of Canada, in 2014, ruled that indeed consent meant consent and not a consultation process, absent a showing by provincial or federal governments that “there is a pressing public need” for economic activity on some Aboriginal lands.  More information on that court decision can be located here. 

There is a view then, that FPIC in Canada will be seen as requiring consent, and not simply indicate that a consultation process must be undertaken. How all of this plays out, with respect to the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline, and other projects, remains to be seen.

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