Backgrounder – Natural Resource Sector

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The implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has the potential to make meaningful and positive change to how Indigenous peoples, communities, and businesses participate in sustainable natural resources development. This includes having Indigenous peoples as full partners in the natural resource and net-zero carbon economy and ensuring that Indigenous peoples have a seat at the table for decisions that may affect their communities. Together, we can develop a stronger, more sustainable, and predictable path for Indigenous peoples, the Government of Canada, and industry.

Practical Implications

The Declaration already has application in Canadian law. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act does not change this, nor does it diminish Indigenous rights as affirmed in Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. The Government of Canada will continue to have a constitutional duty to consult and accommodate Indigenous groups when it considers measures that might adversely impact potential or established Aboriginal or Treaty rights. This legislation supports the Government’s ongoing implementation of its constitutional duty and provides a legislative framework to advance the Government’s implementation of the Declaration in Canada, in partnership with Indigenous peoples.

When discussing resource development, the concept outlined in the Declaration of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) is interconnected. FPIC is a manifestation of Indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination and is about the effective and meaningful participation of Indigenous peoples in decisions that affect them, their communities, and territories. FPIC is contextual in that there is no “one size fits all” for all Indigenous peoples in terms of what it means or how it is implemented on the ground. Operationalizing FPIC may require different processes or new creative ways of working together to ensure meaningful and effective participation in decision-making.

The provision to align the laws of Canada with the Declaration will require a collaborative process where any amendments to existing laws or the development of new laws would proceed through the usual legislative process. Canadian laws that are perceived as not aligned with the Declaration will not be automatically repealed. For the natural resources industry, this legislation does not create any new obligations or regulatory requirements. Industry will continue to be required to meet its procedural requirements as set out in existing legislation, such as in the Impact Assessment Act, 2019 and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, 2019, which contain provisions for greater Indigenous involvement in decision-making processes built-in throughout the regulatory process.

Path Forward

A key component of this legislation is the provision to develop and implement an action plan to achieve the objectives of the Declaration, in partnership and cooperation with Indigenous peoples. This process provides a space to identify priority areas for the implementation of the Declaration, which can help to close socio-economic gaps and promote greater prosperity for Indigenous peoples and all Canadians. Across Canada, there are increasingly more examples of how Indigenous peoples and industry are harnessing new opportunities to work alongside in partnership to create mutual benefits.

Natural Resources Canada is working towards reconciliation by building meaningful partnerships and ensuring Indigenous peoples benefit in developing Canada’s natural resources. A few examples include:

The Declaration can be used as a guidepost in establishing those relationships, because when Indigenous peoples are provided the opportunity to participate.

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