On December 3rd, B.C. Premier John Horgan said he counts the passing of legislation to enshrine the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) into provincial law as one of the proudest moments of his life.
One month later and the province and the federal government are on the verge of using the RCMP to once again forcibly remove Indigenous leaders from their own lands for the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
It’s hard to reconcile but it’s a familiar pattern.
Time and time again Canada’s provincial and federal leaders have spoken in favour of Indigenous rights. They’ve pledged to uphold it, talked about Canada’s shameful history in its treatment of Indigenous peoples and promised to rectify it. Some — Horgan and Trudeau most notably — have passed legislation to codify those rights. But that all falls apart when a fossil fuel mega-project comes a calling.
Whether it’s Coastal GasLink or TransMountain or a host of other fossil fuel development project the governments words and commitments seem to end at a pipeline companies door.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the UN Humans Rights Commissioner, and Amnesty International have all called on Canadian government to immediately stop the construction of Coastal GasLink, the Trans Mountain pipeline and the Site C hydroelectric dam because they don’t have Indigenous consent — yet both level of governments have pledged to press forward.
Coastal GasLink is a $6.6-billion natural gas pipeline that would go right through the heart of Wet’suwet’en territory. The pipeline would feed into a massive LNG (liquid natural gas) expansion proposed in Kitimat, BC on the west coast. The initial greenhouse gas emissions from that project are huge and would be equivalent to adding more than 856,831 cars to the road. That number could more than double in phase 2 of the project.
If Horgan and Trudeau ever want to live up to their own commitments and words they need to break the cycle. They need to realize that the Right to Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) enshrined in UNDRIP is the bar they’ve committed to and can’t be plowed over for political expediency. That means energy projects may not proceed if the owners of the lands they go through aren’t on board. That’s the pill the government needs to swallow. Until then it’s just hollow words from another politician and the continuation of a horrific history BC and Canada have pledged to break.
Read Greenpeace’s full statement on the situation here.