Canada is home to a number of diverse Indigenous groups including First Nations, Métis, and Inuit nations (FNMI).
Indigenous peoples in Canada can be considered status or non-status but this concept is a colonial structure. Indigenous peoples include all FNMI groups regardless of status
Canada has committed to a Nation-to-Nation relationship with Indigenous peoples, the implementation the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), and consulting Indigenous peoples on issues that affect them.
The duty to consult with Indigenous peoples is already part of protocol in place, but there is increased push for further legislation involving consultation and engagement with Indigenous peoples.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls for Canada to implement UNDRIP and to:
“Commit to meaningful consultation, building respectful relationships, and obtaining the
free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous peoples before proceeding with economic development projects.” (Call to Action 92.i)
UNDRIP which is intended to be implemented in Canada (Bill C-262 is currently being referred to the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs as of Feb. 7, 2018) states that:
“States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples [...] to
obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources” (article 32.2)
UNDRIP also states that:
“Indigenous peoples have the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands or territories and resources” (Article 29.1).
Indigenous communities must be consulted in ANY projects within their territories. However, Canada can not consult with just one broad Indigenous governing group for every project. Although, these groups do speak for some Indigenous peoples, it does not speak for all Indigenous peoples. Indigenous nations in Canada vary greatly in their perspectives on the environment and development. There is not a pan-indigenous perspective on what is the right or wrong course of action. Any energy or development projects that affect Indigenous communities or occur within their territories must first engage and consult with the affected Indigenous nations in that area.
Canada’s best way forward is to truly consult with any Indigenous community that may be affected by energy or resource projects if Canada is truly committed to reconciling with Indigenous communities and moving past a colonial structure to a true Nation-to-Nation relationship.