July 13, 2016
The Honourable Frank Iacobucci has authored an editorial for the Globe and Mail on current issues in Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples. The article is based on Free, Prior and Informed Consent in Canada: Towards a New Relationship with Indigenous Peoples, a discussion paper led by Mr. Iacobucci and co-authored with a team of Torys lawyers including John Terry, Valerie Helbronner, Michael Fortier and Ryan Lax.
Below is an excerpt of Mr. Iacobucci’s editorial, which emphasizes the importance of true relationship building with Indigenous peoples, including in the context of Canada’s recent adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
Building a long-term relationship is key. This requires mutual respect and trust. Over time, the relationship should develop to include elements of good faith, transparency, collaboration and recognition of each other’s capacities and constraints. An approach of partnership – in which multiple groups accommodate each other’s interests – is often necessary to arrive at a mutually favourable outcome. This approach has culminated in successful projects that enjoy broad support and are economically beneficial to all parties.
In our experience with both indigenous and non-indigenous proponents of projects and other activities, meaningful engagement with affected indigenous peoples is not only required but also desired. Although there is no cookie-cutter model to follow, engagement must be a two-way process involving the mutual sharing of information, on everything from potential project effects to traditional knowledge and interests. Meaningful engagement has both procedural and substantive elements.
Canadian governments may also benefit from adopting the model of partnership, including the manner in which they approach their duty to consult and accommodate. A partnership model may assist governments in identifying opportunities to align the interests of, and bridge gaps between, project proponents and indigenous peoples. It may also, in part, facilitate reconciliation. It is a positive sign that many governments are expressing support for this model.
Last month as part of National Aboriginal Day, many conversations took place across the country on these important issues. The long journey toward reconciliation will require understanding the details of how UNDRIP will be implemented. In the meantime, adopting a model of true partnership by governments, indigenous peoples, businesses and individuals will help advance reconciliation.
Read the full editorial on the Globe and Mail here.
Read Free, Prior and Informed Consent in Canada: Towards a New Relationship with Indigenous Peoples here.