May 23, 2012, Traditional Territory of Treaty No.6, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan…
The federal government is violating its constitutional and legal obligations to consult and accommodate First Nations Treaty and Aboriginal rights. The First Nations of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) are extremely concerned over the content of Bill C-38 and how it was developed. Bill C-38 will impose a series of new regulations and policies that will alter opportunities for First Nations to examine and be engaged in the approval processes for major resource development projects. As one of its components, Bill C-38 will gut the environmental protection provisions of the current Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. “This Bill is an unconscionable attempt to purposefully minimize the federal government’s obligations to consult and accommodate First Nations Treaty and Aboriginal rights. It openly contradicts what the Supreme Court of Canada has already declared on this matter”, stated FSIN Vice-Chief Bobby Cameron. “The Court has clearly articulated the rules for consultation and accommodation. This bill will change what those rules are. Stephen Harper and his conservative party government have shown that the Federal Crown has no honour and no respect for the application of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decisions when it comes to the First Nations people of Canada.”
“First Nations must be consulted about the design of environmental and regulatory review processes, and must also be consulted in strategic planning. First Nations have serious concerns about the future of our environment and the impacts that decisions this government will have on our future. The Harper government has failed miserably to engage the First Nations in Saskatchewan in this regard”, stated FSIN Vice-Chief Bobby Cameron.
The FSIN demands that Prime Minister Stephen Harper live by the comments he made in 1994 while he was in opposition when he disputed the “kitchen sink approach” of the Liberal government’s Omnibus Budget Bill: “How can members represent their constituents on these various areas when they are forced to vote in a block on such legislation and on such concerns?… How do we express our views and the views of our constituents when the matters are so diverse? Dividing the bill into several components would allow members to represent views of their constituents on each of the different components in the bill.”
The FSIN strongly recommends that the Stephen Harper government consult with First Nations on dividing Bill C-38 into several components, particularly those provisions dealing with environmental protection. This would provide sufficient time to ensure that the First Nations fully understand potential impacts on their rights; are able to respond in a meaningful way; are provided with an opportunity to be accommodated where required, by meaningfully addressing concerns raised; and are provided with formal participation in decision-making.
This will ensure that First Nations have the opportunity to address concerns about projects that can seriously harm the environment – an issue that all Canadians should be concerned with. The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan. The Federation is committed to honouring the spirit and intent of Treaty, as well as the promotion, protection and implementation of the Treaty promises that were made more than a century ago.
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