Ottawa, November 29, 2016—A significant uncertainty remains in Canadian law as a result of thegovernment’s decision today not to proceed with consultations on the Northern Gateway pipeline project.
"While we understand the political circumstances that led to this decision by the government, we must realize that a significant gap in the law on the duty to consult Indigenous peoples remains,” said the Hon. Perrin Beatty, President and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. “It is important to remember that Enbridge did everything by the book. However, as long as there is a lack of clarity around when, how and to what degree the federal government can delegate its duty to consult with Indigenous peoples, problematic situations will continue to arise. Continued uncertainty in this area could undermine the competitiveness of Canada’s natural resource industry.”
Governments must consult Indigenous peoples and accommodate them when proposed projects could affect their constitutionally-protected rights. They may delegate the procedural aspects of this duty to business, usually by mandating project proponents to consult during the regulatory process. This is usually a positive way for industry and the Indigenous communities to work together, but the lack of a clear framework on how to do this can undermine everyone’s interests
Over the course of the last year the Canadian Chamber has consulted with over 90 expert and representatives from Indigenous organization, business and government on the duty to consult and accommodate Indigenous peoples. A key finding of this research was that the lack of clarity around the process is a frustration to Indigenous peoples as well. In the case of Northern Gateway, today’s decision will impact the 31 Aboriginal equity partners in the project, who as part-owners would have shared in the long-term benefits of the project.
The Canadian Chamber recommendations on how the government can move to clarify the Duty to Consult and Accomidateare available in our report Seizing Six Opportunities for More Clarity in the Duty to Consult and Accommodate Process.
“The negative consequences aren’t just bad for business – they can also work against the interests of Indigenous communities. In many cases, these communities support projects that will have long-term benefits for their people, which include jobs, infrastructure and the creation of new businesses,” said Mr. Beatty.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is the vital connection between business and the federal government. It helps shape public policy and decision-making to the benefit of businesses, communities and families across Canada with a network of over 450 chambers of commerce and boards of trade, representing 200,000 businesses of all sizes in all sectors of the economy and in all regions. Follow us on Twitter @CdnChamberofCom.
G. Will Dubreuil
Director, Public Affairs and Media Relations
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce