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Council of Canadians hosts public forum on implementation of UNDRIP in Canada

Robin Tress, Naomi Metallic, Patti Doyle-Bedwell

The Council of Canadians hosted a public forum in Halifax this evening on what resource extraction would look like in Canada if the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) were implemented.

The outreach had noted, “We’ll hear from local experts and advocates about what UNDRIP is, how it has been contravened by projects like the Site C dam in British Columbia and the Alton Gas project in Nova Scotia, and processes developed by Indigenous communities to give, or withhold, consent. Panelists will discuss the topic in broad terms as well as offer specific insights to ongoing projects and resistance movements.”

The speakers were Patti Doyle-Bedwell and Naomi Metallic.

The outreach highlighted, “Patti is a Mi’kmaq woman, lawyer and writer. She has published numerous papers on Aboriginal women, employment equity, education and leadership, and teaches Native studies from a Mi’kmaq perspective at Dalhousie University. Naomi spent ten years practicing law focusing on Indigenous issues. She recently joined the Schulich School of Law’s faculty, as she says, to ‘work for First Nations in a different way — through teaching, writing, and speaking about how the law can be a tool for reconciliation and improving the lives of Indigenous peoples’.”

Council of Canadians organizer Robin Tress was the moderator of the event, while Council of Canadians organizer Angela Giles tweeted the highlights of the evening.

Patti Doyle-Bedwell

– I believe strongly that we are a sovereign Mi’kmaq nation, this is our unceded territory, it’s not just 13 reserves.

– Ancestors signed treaties b/c wanted 2 share, not giving up rights; Now we can access the land but it’s not ours.

– I’m not a fan of the “Indian” Act. How does a statute trump the constitution?

– Fantasy: traditional Mi’kmaq territory (Newfoundland, NS, parts of NB +PQ) become a nation; real self-determination.

– Traditional governance structure might not be the best; Donkin mine getting support from local Indigenous community.

– The Indian Act is a colonial instrument of oppression.

– People at Treaty truckhouse: they are living consent: our right to say no. Fighting corporate structures.

Naomi Metallic

– Section 35 was an empty box, and now UNDRIP gives us a full box of rights”, but these remain to be seen.

– Court developed a sliding scale on duty to consult, based on strength of argument under UNDRIP.

– Problem: gov’t tends to value things on low end; Indigenous groups on high end. You either consent or you don’t.

– Now the court issue: where are we in process? Either too early (you need to see the process through) or too late.

– Power imbalance: gov’t still calls shots, courts look to gov’t. No veto/way to say no for Indigenous communities.

– Problems with Indian Act: people can’t determine who they are or want to be, bylaws used to be run past Min of Indian Affairs.

– But we can’t just repeal Indian act; need something better to replace it.

The Council of Canadians calls on the Trudeau government to respect and fully implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. To be consistent with Article 19 of UNDRIP, the Liberals must respect the right to free, prior and informed consent, which they have not done with recent major project approvals.