|OPEN LETTER: Unacceptable Request for Comments on Proposed Regulations to Implement CEAA 2012|
May 25, 2012
May 24, 2012
Prime Minster Stephen Harper
Prime Minister’s Office
Langevin Block 80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A3
Via facsimile: 613- 941-6900
Honourable Joe Oliver
Minister, Natural Resources Canada
580 Booth Street, 21st Floor, Room C7-1
Ottawa, ON, K1A 0E4
Via facsimile: 613-996-4516
Honourable Keith Ashfield
Minister, Fisheries and Oceans
200 Kent Street
Ottawa, ON, K1A 0E6
Via facsimile: 613-990-1866
Director, Legislative and Regulatory Affairs
160 Elgin Street, 22nd Floor
Ottawa, ON, K1A 0H3
Via facsimile: 613-957-0897
OPEN LETTER: Unacceptable Request for Comments on Proposed Regulations to Implement Proposed CEAA 2012
Dear Prime Minister, Minister Oliver, Minister Ashfield and Mr. McCauley:
The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) strongly contests the federal government’s current request for comments on the proposed regulations to implement the proposed Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012. We do so based on the lack of consultation with First Nations and because of the inclusion of massive changes to the environmental assessment process within an omnibus bill. Providing comments on the regulations serves the political aim of gutting and revising the current environmental assessment process to the detriment of Aboriginal Title, Rights, and Treaty Rights, and the environment. We will not participate in this flawed process because we do not want to legitimize it in any way. We call on your government to stop the implementation of the proposed Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 and keep the current Canadian Environmental Assessment Act in place unless and until a comprehensive and honourable engagement process is undertaken including consultation with First Nations.
We remind you that the duty to consult and accommodate Aboriginal interests is triggered when the Crown is contemplating any decision that has the potential to adversely impact rights guaranteed by s.35 (1) of the Constitution Act, 1982. The document on which you seek public input into the proposed regulations for the proposed new legislation is titled “Consultation Document”; however, we wish to make extremely clear that this document in no way fulfils the Crown’s duty to consult with First Nations on changes to the environmental assessment process, or any associated regulations.
Further, we completely object to your government’s questionable and underhanded tactics of including major changes to the environmental assessment process within an omnibus bill that addresses numerous issues and is being put through an expedited process that does not allow for the standard debate and checks and balances that such significant and substantive changes deserve and require. Approximately one third of the massive Bill C-38 effectively dismantles Canada’s current environmental laws, including the repeal and replacement of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. The new Act permits the federal government to avoid environmental reviews of specific projects as well as minimize comprehensive reviews where they will still take place. The new law also sees exclusion of concerned groups and citizens from the environmental review process for pipelines such as proposed Enbridge tankers and pipelines project. As we set out in the letter dated April 19th, 2012 from the First Nations Leadership Council, we are gravely concerned that the changes to the environmental review lay waste to the creditability of the process.
The federal government’s call for public comment on the proposed regulations, with more sure to come, is not an innocuous, non-partisan, objective request; rather, it is a poorly disguised strategic tactic to reach a highly political end through implementation of a revamped environmental assessment legislative and regulatory process. It is clear that the federal government is pandering to third party interests in major resource extraction while ignoring its legal obligations to Aboriginal people, and sacrificing the environment that Canadians value so highly. Unfortunately, the federal government’s insertion of political aims and interests into the environmental assessment process undermines years of federal environmental assessment work focused on protecting the environment and built on public engagement.
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 instrument.
The federal government’s unilateral and draconian approach to amending the environmental assessment process is not being quietly accepted by First Nations, environmental organizations, or the general Canadian public. Seeking comments on regulations to be developed pursuant to an Act that is not yet passed is premature. Rather than continue on this oppositional course with certain conflict and continued uncertainty, we strongly urge you to engage in regulatory overhaul for environmental laws that respect constitutionally protected Aboriginal Title, Rights and Treaty Rights, with appropriate engagement across the country.
On behalf of the UNION OF BC INDIAN CHIEFS
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
Chief Robert Chamberlin
Chief Marilyn Baptiste
Premier Christy Clark
Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency
BC Office of Environmental Assessment
National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo
First Nations Summit
BC Assembly of First Nations
First Nations Energy and Mining Council
First Nations Fisheries Council
BC First Nations
UBCIC is a NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.