First, it is critical to acknowledge that Indigenous Peoples have rights to their lands, territories and resources that predate the creation of the Canadian state. These pre-existing rights are affirmed in the Peace and Friendship Treaties, in the Royal Proclamation of 1763, and in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, as well as in authoritative international human rights instruments including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Canada’s failure to protect these rights has been repeatedly condemned by international human rights bodies, including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which found that the comprehensive claims processes fall below international standards of justice. Your government can make a meaningful contribution by communicating clearly that these rights exist and must be respected.Second, the inherent land rights of Aboriginal peoples cannot be ignored in the day-to-day operations of the government. Doing so is both discriminatory and contrary to the rule of law. Canadian courts have set out a mandatory constitutional duty to consult with Indigenous peoples with the goal of identifying and substantially accommodating their concerns, before any decisions are made that could affect these rights. For such consultation to be meaningful, Indigenous peoples’ knowledge and perspective must be part of the determination of whether or not a particular proposal could have a harmful impact on their rights and use of the land. Furthermore, the duty of consultation and accommodation, and the inter-related obligation for governments to deal honourably with Aboriginal peoples, cannot be met if there is a predetermination that projects will go ahead regardless of legitimate concerns raised by the affected communities. Accordingly, our organizations urge your government to retract statements indicating that the province is already committed to shale gas development, regardless of opposition.
Utterly despicable behaviour by any standards…
It’s the latest in Chevron‘s scorched earth campaign to avoid paying a record environmental verdict against the company for massive contamination stemming from its operations in Ecuador’s Amazon between 1964 and 1990.
The implications of Chevron’s tactics are immense and should send shivers down the spine of anyone concerned about justice, human rights, the environment or corporate responsibility. The U.S. oil giant has taken “blame the victim” to a new extreme in its attempt to avoid the $19 billion guilty verdict handed down by an Ecuadorian court in February 2012. Upheld on appeal, the verdict was based on much of Chevron’s own evidence, and in a forum of Chevron’s choosing. Chevron has no assets in Ecuador, and has thumbed its nose at the verdict, adding insult to injury for communities who have sought a clean up, clean water and funds for health care for 18 years. The affected communities are now forced to pursue Chevron assets around the globe in order to get the justice they deserve.
Most of the questions relate to implementation of this standard in Latin America, but his answers to the final two questions were particularly interesting to me, and applicable to many nations that are being called on to implement the prior consent standard.
Q: Do you think the state would lose its sovereignty if an indigenous community has the last word on whether or not an investment project can be undertaken on their territory?
A: The state does not lose its sovereignty if it respects human rights or indigenous rights. It has to comply with these rules to respect those rights; the state cannot do whatever it wants.I would say that the respect of these rights is a way of ensuring that this sovereignty is exercised. When the state respects human rights, it exercises its sovereignty, because it is acting in favour of its citizens and peoples.
Q: Nevertheless, there has been a loss of trust in governments. What can be done to ensure legitimate consultations and to open up dialogue?
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THERE will be echoes of 1967 in Parliament House on Wednesday when both sides of politics pass legislation that will give momentum to the push to recognise the first Australians in the nation’s founding document.
Shirley Peisley was 26 when she pinned badges on the lapels of politicians in support of modest but hugely symbolic constitutional change. On Wednesday she will watch as a new indigenous generation does the same in support of something more ambitious.
Back then, Ms Peisley was a woman in awe, inspired by the leadership and example of Lowitja O’Donoghue, who organised her trip from Adelaide to a planning meeting for the 1967 referendum campaign. Like most of the activists, they stayed at Brassey Hotel, then called Brassey Hostel. ”Anyone who had a room – and some of us did – would have swags all over the floor,” Professor O’Donoghue recalls. ”The dining room was full of people who weren’t guests. It was amazing how they put up with us.”
Lowitja O’Donoghue and Shirley Peisley on Tuesday. Photo: Andrew Meares
When they weren’t talking about the struggle or singing We Shall Overcome and other anthems of the American civil rights movement, Professor O’Donoghue recalls some of the activists throwing boomerangs on the vacant land opposite.
This week, the two women are back in the same digs, and hoping that the unity, energy and optimism that abounded almost half a century ago will be replicated – and help transform the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The 1967 referendum resulted in indigenous Australians being counted in the census and gave the national government the power to make laws for their benefit, but only conferred what Noel Pearson described as a ”neutral kind of citizenship”.