Toronto, ON (June 23, 2016) --- Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day says the recent federal launch of a comprehensive review of environmental and regulatory process will test the federal government’s recognition of First Nations jurisdiction over environment.
“This review has triggered a deep interest from First Nations because there is currently no commitment to actual change and any pressure on industry to uphold environmental regulations. First Nations will support this only if consultation processes are in line with Free Prior and Informed Consent as outlined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” said Regional Chief Day.
“The federal government’s recognition of First Nation environmental jurisdiction must be honoured before we can commit to any high level discussion at a Nation to Nation level because frankly, we are apprehensive of more broken promises.”
On June 20, 2016 the federal government launched a comprehensive review of environmental and regulatory processes. Rebuilding trust in environmental assessment processes will be achieved through establishing an expert panel to review federal environmental assessment processes associated with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012. This panel will engage with Canadians, Indigenous groups and key stakeholders. Consultation opportunities are being planned to begin in September 2016. Funding will be provided to Indigenous groups to support their participation in this process, including for meetings and consultation sessions with the expert panel.
In 2012, Omnibus Bill C-38, made significant changes to a number of federal environmental regulatory processes including the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Fisheries Act, Navigable Waters Protection Act and Energy Board Act. These changes weakened the protection of the environment and were made with no consultation from Indigenous Peoples. One added element on the urgency of any environmental assessment will be the impact of climate change - First Nations are declaring that full engagement on these issues is vital.
“The protections provided under these Acts are vital to our communities well being. When the land, water and environment are not protected we are not protected. Our people, for millennia, have lived in a sustainable way with the environment, a way of life that has been forever altered. The government’s specific commitment to meaningful engagement with Indigenous Peoples, as well as including traditional knowledge in decision making is vital. These actions are needed for a new era of reconciliation,” said Regional Chief Day.