Part of GRITE’s work is dedicated on governance and regulation. On the one hand, our members analyze governance issues related to regulation or lack thereof, policy gaps and contradictions, and their economic, social, political, and environmental effects. On the other hand, GRITE members elaborate policy recommendations in order to address these issues.
In November 2018, GRITE organized a 2-day conference Extractive Industries, Governance and Indigenous Rights: Spaces of Struggle and Social innovation, which included a policy meeting focused on the Government of Canada policy on Indigenous Peoples and extractive industries at home and abroad.
Feeding from ideas shared by participants during the event, GRITE members individually or collectively took part in various initiatives and elaborated and published policy papers addressed to the Government of Canada, such as uOttawa IMPACT Forum, 2019 GAC-SSHRC International Policy Ideas Challenge, or op-eds in Canadian medias.
In June 2019, we participated in the policy forum IMPACT organized at the University of Ottawa in the context of the upcoming 2019 Canadian federal election. IMPACT aimed to contribute to policy expertise of all levels of governments in Canada, by bringing together academics, stakeholder groups, and government officials to openly discuss pressing issues. Building on the discussions we had during our 2018 November conference policy meeting, we presented 2 policy briefs. Marie-Dominik Langlois, Salvador Herencia, Sophie Thériault, Penelope Simons, Karine Vanthuyne, and Willow Scobie contributed to the policy briefs.
1 : Domestic policy recommendations
Are Extractive Activities and Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in Canada Irreconcilable?
By Marie-Dominik Langlois, Sophie Thériault, Willow Scobie, and Karine Vanthuyne, members of GRITE
Extractivism[i] refers to the removal of large quantities of natural resources, such as minerals, oil, forestry products, and large-scale farming/fishing – with or without some degree of processing – and exported. Its operating mode produces enclaves of specific rights.
The proximity of mining, for example, to Indigenous territories raises significant concerns. According to NRCAN, 455 agreements between exploration or mining companies and Indigenous communities or governments were signed between 2000 and 2017, especially in Ontario and British Columbia. Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN) reports the value of Canadian mining assets in Canada for 2017 at $ 91.4 billion, representing more than 1/3 of all Canadian mining assets across the globe. And while Canada ranks among the top 12 countries according to the Human Development Index (HDI), it is estimated that the HDI of Indigenous people would be around 48/174 or even 63rd according to former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Perry Bellegarde. This juxtaposition thus gives an idea of the scope of wealth within the extractive industries and the persistent poverty of many First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities, contributing to an intensely unequal relationship between Indigenous groups and mining companies. Since extractive activities can be deemed by Indigenous communities to be invasive, depredatory, or insufficiently discussed within communities, and given that many projected extractive sites are on or near Indigenous territories, this document concludes with recommendations to the Government of Canada that seek to address conflicts and problems that arise.
2 : International Policy Recommendations
Canadian Extractive Companies Operating Abroad
The lack of Government of Canada (GC) regulatory mechanisms to ensure that extractive companies registered in Canada and operating abroad respect human rights has been the subject of policymaking debates. International human rights bodies have criticized the lack of action in this area by the GC. The latest attempt to address this topic has been the creation of a Canadian ombudsperson for responsible enterprise (CORE). The publication of a recent order in council indicates that this body will be unable to meaningfully address victim complaints.
The purpose of this brief is to identify problems that Indigenous peoples face from Canadian extractive companies operating abroad and to present recommendations to ensure that Indigenous rights to territory and free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) are respected.
3 : International Policy Ideas Challenge 2019
Marie-Dominik Langlois’ and Salvador Herencia Carrasco’s policy recommendations were among the award winners of the 2019 International Policy Ideas Challenge organized by Global Affairs Canada and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). Their paper, Penser le développement durable par le respect de la diversité culturelle, l’inclusion et la participation des peuples autochtones dans la gestion de leurs ressources naturelles et le respect de leurs droits, [French only] is available here.
How can we ensure respect for the rights of Indigenous Peoples in the context of natural resource extraction when Canadian foreign direct investment (FDI) is present? To answer this question, this proposed policy brief will first present the economic, social, political and legal context in which the issue evolves and then make recommendations to Global Affairs Canada (GAC) to prevent, resolve or mitigate the problems encountered during extractive investments on or near Aboriginal territories abroad. We recognize that some of the proposed recommendations are more difficult to adopt or are outside of GAC’s mandate. However, we believe that in order to achieve the objectives – that is, extraction that respects the rights of Indigenous Peoples locally – are all necessary and that GAC must play a leadership role in their implementation and in ensuring coherence among Canadian policies.
The policy brief focuses on rights to land and territory, as well as the rights to free, prior and informed consultation and consent. However, these rights have a multidimensional aspect, as they are the means to ensure the exercise of other internationally protected rights, such as the rights to culture, religion and development. Therefore, our recommendations and analyses go beyond land tenure and land administration. They are aimed at ensuring that Indigenous Peoples continue to exist in the best way they deem appropriate.