Canada should recognize First Nations’ right to veto natural resource projects that would have negative impacts on their traditional territories, the Boreal Leadership Council recommended in a report earlier this week that endorsed the principle of “free, prior, and informed consent” in relations between industry and Aboriginal populations.
The Council includes companies at the pinnacle of Canada’s resource economy, including Suncor Energy, Tembec Inc., Goldcorp, and the Toronto-Dominion Bank, alongside First Nations and environmental organizations.
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“The right of Indigenous peoples to offer or withhold consent to development that may have an impact on their territories or resources is the key to development, not a barrier,” said  Council member Rob Walker of Vancouver-based NEI Investments.
“While there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach,” the report stated, “early engagement can provide a foundation for the necessary working relationships,” as well as an “opportunity to establish impact benefit agreements that can help guide project development and management.”
Free, prior, and informed consent is an underlying principle for a new global initiative recently recommended by the Forest Stewardship Council, CBC reports. And Canadian court decisions have held that “communities need to be consulted and their concerns accommodated, and that where they have clear title to land, their consent must be given,” the Globe and Mail adds.
“But the Harper government has not accepted the standard—contained in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples—that would acknowledge the right of Aboriginal communities to provide their informed consent prior to a project being approved,” McCarthy writes. “Several First Nations have launched legal challenges to specific projects, including the government’s conditional approval of Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway project.”