Friday, April 26, 2019

UNPFII 2019: Intervention by Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, Chief of the Neskonlith Indian Band

UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Eighteenth Session

April 24/25, 2019

Agenda Item 11: Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Agenda Item 4: Implementation of the six mandated areas of the Permanent Forum

Speaker: Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, Secretary-Treasurer of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs and Chief of the Neskonlith Indian Band

My name is Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, and I am Secretary-Treasurer for the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and Chief of the Neskonlith Indian Band, Skat'sin te Secwépemc. It is my honour and responsibility to present the following statement on behalf of the UBCIC which represents over a hundred and ten First Nations in British Columbia, Canada. This statement addresses the internationally recorded violations of the human rights of the Secwepemc people in BC, Canada, as well as the struggles of Indigenous human rights defenders across BC.

I would like to offer the following recommendation to the Permanent Forum:

That it is crucial for States, in the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to do so meaningfully and as a whole, not selectively based on what is politically convenient. Free, prior, and informed consent is not an enhanced consultation process, and States cannot ignore the decisions made by Indigenous peoples through their own systems of governance and decision-making that they have freely chosen for themselves.

Madam Chair – On December 14, 2018, the Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination wrote to Canada, stating that “the realization of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project without free, prior and informed consent, would permanently affect the land rights of Secwepemc people and, as a result, would infringe their rights.” Canada has not heeded this international warning, or previous warnings, instead Canada has re-initiated consultations with Indigenous groups on this State-owned project – consultations that are proving to be one-sided discussions that continue to sidestep the issue of Aboriginal Title and Rights.

On March 27, 2019, I received a letter from Minister Sohi of the Ministry of Natural Resources that stated that Canada’s approach to consultation was consistent with EMRIP’s study on free, prior, and informed consent and that “Consultation on the potential impacts of this Project (TMX) is not a rights-determining process, and it will not affect your asserted title rights, pending your claims resolution.” I wish to point out to the members of the Forum to the contradictions of Canada’s statement and cite section C 1.14 of EMRIP’s report on FPIC that states:
“[FPIC] constitutes three interrelated and cumulative rights of indigenous people: the right to be consulted; the right to participate; and the right to their lands, territories and resources. Pursuant to the Declaration, free, prior and informed consent cannot be achieved if one of these components is missing.”

Canada fails to realize a crucial element of FPIC is the recognition of Title, the recognition that we have the right to our own lands, territories and resources that this pipeline project is poised to infringe upon. Consultation on the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project is inextricably linked to First Nations’ Title and Rights recognition; Canada must recognize that Aboriginal Title and Rights necessarily shape the form, function, and implementation of consultation. The Neskonlith, like many of the Secwépmec Peoples have not participated nor have we had the freedom to guide and direct the consultation processes but we hold the right and freedom to withhold our consent if our right to our territories and lands is continually denied by Canada.

It is clear that Canada is maintaining a pattern of distorting facts and claiming that they are engaged in ongoing, meaningful dialogue with First Nations only as a means to cement their foothold in lucrative corporate projects. Until First Nations are respected and recognized as decision-makers and rightful Title Holders and free, prior and informed consent is sought, no consultation process can ever fulfill Canada’s agenda of co-operation, partnership, and true reconciliation.

Another aspect of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project is the establishment of temporary work camps to provide labour to remote areas and “man camps” to provide temporary employee housing to thousands of mostly non-Indigenous male workers. These work camps foster a hyper-masculine industrial camp culture which can result in increased risk of sexual harassment and assault and increased levels of violence against women in sex work and hitchhiking.

Indigenous communities, particularly women and children, are the most vulnerable and at risk of experiencing the negative effects of industrial camps. UBCIC is mandated by our Chiefs through resolution to “stand together against any and all threats to our peoples, our women, our two-spirits, our children, our lands, the wildlife, the salmon, the waterways.” We encourage this Forum to recognize and stand up against the diverse and multifaceted impacts that corporate, State-sponsored development can have on Indigenous peoples, especially women, girls, and Two-Spirit people.

It is not just the Trans Mountain Pipeline Project that is threatening Indigenous peoples in BC. The Site C hydroelectric dam, now under construction in northern BC, is one of the largest energy development projects currently underway anywhere in Canada. The publicly owned utility building the dam has labeled it a “clean energy” project; nothing could be further from the truth. The continued construction of the Site C dam is emblematic of a profound gulf between the rhetoric espoused by the government on the international stage and many of the actual policies and decisions pursued domestically. CERD has recommended that the construction of Site C be halted until there is a full review of how it would affect Indigenous land, and yet construction continues.

Another stark example of violations of human rights and resulting State and corporate impunity for these violations is the Mount Polley Mine disaster, where in 2014 a mining tailings pond dam was breached and mining waste spilled into Polley Lake. Years have passed since the Mount Polley Mine disaster, and yet since then no fines, no charges, and no penalties have been levelled against the company at fault. It is unacceptable that the company get away without any punitive repercussions when the people and environment are directly impacted by this spill; Indigenous communities living downstream still deal with threats to their food security and spiritual practices as toxicants from the tailings pond continue to accumulate in the environment.

Thank you Madam Chair.


Neskonlith Chief Judy Wilson
Intervention at UNPFII