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    Alberta Energy Minister Not Happy with UN Directive

Summary

Sonya Savage says concerns of United Nations committee are misdirected

by: Dale Lunan

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Alberta Energy Minister Not Happy with UN Directive

The minister of energy from the Canadian province of Alberta is not happy that a UN committee monitoring racial discrimination has suggested Canada shut down three major energy infrastructure projects until First Nations impacted by the work have been fully consulted.

Following its 100th session in late November and early December 2019, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination issued a written directive saying it was “concerned”, “disturbed” and “alarmed” by how First Nations in BC were being impacted by the Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline project, the Site C hydroelectric project and the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project.

About the CGL project – which has attracted opposition from certain groups within the Wet’suwet’en First Nation south of Houston, BC – the committee said it was “[c]oncerned by the approval of new large-scale development projects on indigenous peoples traditional lands and territories without the free, prior and informed consent of affected indigenous peoples, such as the Coastal GasLink pipeline in the territory of the Wet’suwet’en people.”

It called upon the “State party” – in this case the Canadian government – to “immediately halt the construction and suspend all permits and approvals for the construction of the Coastal Gas Link pipeline in the traditional and unceded lands and territories of the Wet’suwet’en people, until they grant their free, prior and informed consent, following the full and adequate discharge of the duty to consult.”

CGL is a provincial undertaking and beyond the jurisdiction of the federal government, a position recently confirmed by the Canada Energy Regulator. It has all required provincial approvals and has signed benefits agreements with all 20 First Nations along its right-of-way, including the Wet’suwet’en First Nation.

The position of the UN committee – comprised of 18 members who monitor racial discrimination issues around the world – prompted Alberta energy minister Sonya Savage to respond, despite the fact that the three projects cited by the committee are largely located in BC. Only the Trans Mountain expansion has an Alberta component.

“With all the injustice in the world, it’s beyond rich that the unelected, unaccountable United Nations would seemingly single out Canada – one of the greatest champions of human rights, democracy and the rule of law,” she said January 7. “We wish that the UN would pay as much attention to the majority of First Nation groups that support important projects such as Trans Mountain and Coastal GasLink.”

She pointed out that First Nations leaders across Canada are increasingly recognising that responsible resource development can help move Canada’s indigenous communities towards prosperity from poverty.

“Yet this UN body seemingly ignores these voices,” Savage said, adding that duly-elected representatives at both the federal and provincial level – “not unaccountable international committees” – are responsible for resource development decisions in Canada.

The full text of the committee's directive can be accessed here.