Environment: Background Content

International Environmental Issues


December 12, 2020


BC, Fed. Govt.

Columbia River Treaty

CBC – A cross-border treaty that has regulated the flow of the Columbia River for over 50 years could be in jeopardy as a group of American politicians calls on the president to invoke his executive authority and terminate the treaty. The Columbia River Treaty was ratified by the United States and Canada in 1964 and resulted in the construction of four huge hydro-electric dams — three in Canada and one in the U.S. — to reduce the risk of flooding and generate billions of dollars worth of electricity.

According to the Canadian government, the treaty is considered a model of international cooperation on hydropower development. Certain provisions of the treaty are set to expire in 2024 and negotiators in Canada and the U.S. have been working on a new deal for more than two years. But U.S. Congressman Dan Newhouse will table a resolution in the House of Representatives asking President Donald Trump to issue a termination notice for the treaty. He has the support of other members of congress. Newhouse calls the treaty a “bad deal” and says it is “outdated and unfair.”

The U.S. states of the Pacific Northwest essentially want to pay far less for the right to store water in British Columbia. The storage of water in B.C. also allows for the generation of more hydro-electricity at 11 dams south of the border. Under the treaty, Canada and the U.S. share that benefit on a 50-50 basis


September 16, 2019


BC, Fed. Govt.

Columbia River Treaty

Indigenous Group: Ktunaxa Nation, Secwepemc Nation and Syilx Okanagan Nation

Business: Govt of Canada and BC; Govt. of USA

Issue: May 3, 2019: Assembly of First Nations – Decisions made under the Treaty have had many adverse effects on the First Nations involved, including damage to village and burial sites and damage to fish stocks, a traditional food source with cultural and spiritual significance

Comment: Discussions about the future of the Columbia River Treaty and potential paths forward on flood-risk management and hydropower co-ordination were launched in 2018 with four sets of negotiation meetings between Canada (including B.C.) and the United States.

Last Update: Sept. 16, 2019 – Government of BC – On behalf of the Canadian delegation, the Ktunaxa, Secwepemc and Syilx/Okanagan Nations made a presentation to U.S. negotiators, drawn from their ongoing study of ecosystems in the Canadian Columbia Basin. They also made a presentation on the collaboration between Indigenous, provincial and federal governments to explore options for the reintroduction of salmon to the Upper Columbia. The presentation also highlighted the importance of building flexibility into the treaty to achieve Indigenous, ecosystem and social objectives.

ribal advisors from the U.S. Tribes provided expertise regarding the extensive ecosystem work that the United States has undertaken in the basin, including transboundary efforts.

“As treaty negotiations continue, the approach being taken by negotiators shows just how far we have come since the treaty was drafted half a century ago,” said Katrine Conroy, B.C.’s Minister Responsible for the Columbia River Treaty. “The presence and involvement of Indigenous Nations and the U.S. Tribes means voices and perspectives that were shut out 50 years ago are now being heard and helping to shape the treaty’s future.”


April 13, 2018


N/A

Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador CONAIE: and Front for the Defence of the Amazon

Business: Chevron Corporation

Issue: Chevron’s attempt to avoid a $9.5B liability to rain forest communities for dumping billions of gallons of toxic oil waste and for ongoing violations of Indigenous rights. Chevron abandoned roughly 1,000 unlined oil waste pits after operating in the country from 1964 to 1992.

Comment: Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and Ecuador signed a protocol to hold Chevron accountable. “This protocol is a profound step forward for Indigenous groups in both Ecuador and Canada to hold an irresponsible corporate polluter accountable for its actions in destroying Indigenous lands and cultures in the Amazon and around the world,” Jamie Vargas, President CONAIE

Last Update: April 13, 2018: Frente de Defensa de la Amazonía – A critical court hearing in Ontario could re-shape indigenous rights and corporate law throughout the world. The hearing, which will take place April 17-18 before a three-judge panel of the Ontario Court of Appeal, will determine whether Chevron can immunize itself from paying the Ecuador judgment by placing its assets in a wholly-owned subsidiary.

Several Ecuadorian leaders from the FDA and AFN leaders, including National Chief Perry Bellegarde and former National Chief Phil Fontaine, are expected to attend the hearing. Chevron has argued that assets held by its wholly-owned Canadian subsidiary, Chevron Canada, should be off-limits to collection on the judgment even though Chevron reaps billions of dollars annually in profits from the subsidiary’s operations. If Chevron’s legal argument holds, it will be virtually impossible for First Nations and all human rights victims to collect on court judgments from private corporations once the corporations place their assets in a wholly-owned subsidiary. The dumping decimated traditional lifestyles and caused an outbreak of cancer and other health problems that have either killed of afflicted thousands of people, according to independent health studies and other evidence presented to the court.

As the evidence against it mounted in the Ecuador trial, Chevron sold off its assets in the country and vowed to never pay the judgment. It also made its infamous “lifetime of litigation” threat and began retaliatory attacks against community leaders and their lawyers in courts around the world. The company has used at least 60 law firms and 2,000 lawyers on the case and recently was caught paying a witness $2 million to testify falsely about the case in U.S. federal court, leading to a criminal referral letter to the U.S. Department of Justice.


August 24, 2019


N/A

Indigenous Rights in Brazil’s Amazon Rain Forest

Indigenous Group: Indigenous groups in Brazil

Business: Government of Brazil

Issue: Brazil’s government wants to enact rules that allow mining in Indigenous reserves which occupy 13 percent of the country’s territory

Comment: March 13, 2019: Reuters – Mining Secretary Alexandre Vidigal de Oliveira Albuquerque’s remarks “that Brazil would seek to open indigenous reserves to mining”
sparked an angry response from Indigenous advocates, who said it was disrespectful after the country had just suffered it’s largest-ever mining disaster that killed hundreds in January. (Mining .com – Reuters)

Last Updates: August 24, 2019: Assembly of First Nations – Canada needs to pressure Brazil to end violations of Indigenous rights, says the head of Canada’s largest Indigenous organization in a letter sent to Global Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and obtained by CBC News. Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde sent the letter dated Aug. 24 to Freeland urging Canada pressure Brazil to “end its violence” against Indigenous Peoples. Bellegarde said he was writing the letter to voice his “sadness and grave concerns” over land invasions and attacks by gold miners, ranchers and loggers on Indigenous territories in the northern Amazon region of Brazil that resulted in assaults on Waiapi women and the killing of Waiapi Chief Emvra Waiapi. (CBC)


September 1, 2021


N/A

Indigenous Rights in Brazil’s Amazon Rain Forest: 113 Indigenous people killed

VOX – According to data from the Brazilian government’s Indigenous health service, in 2019 at least 113 Indigenous people were killed in the country, a majority of whom were “committed to the protection of the borders of their territories and fought against logging and mining.”

The Guajajara Guardians patrol their reserve, Araribóia, on foot, and occasionally on boats and motorcycles, constantly monitoring for signs of illegal activity — from deserted machinery to other indications of active logging — a guardian and chief from one of the Araribóia villages explained to Vox. Araribóia lies in the northeastern Brazilian state of Maranhão and is one of the nearly 400 Indigenous reserves carved out under the 1988 Brazilian Constitution, which granted land rights to Indigenous groups. Many of these territories sit inside Earth’s largest rainforest: the Amazon.

Brazil’s current political climate emboldens land grabbers and environmental corruption, which is intensifying the assaults on Indigenous communities. Things have gotten so bad because Bolsonaro’s rhetoric and pro-agriculture policies have undermined environmental agencies and law enforcement, according to organizations like the World Resources Institute


August 28, 2019


N/A

Indigenous Rights in Brazil’s Amazon Rain Forest: Support from Inuit Circumpolar Council

Arctic Circumpolar Council – The international circumpolar organization representing Inuit in Alaska, Canada, Chukotka and Greenland has sent a message of solidarity to Indigenous peoples living in the Amazon basin, and expressing concern for what the fires now burning in the region’s rainforests mean for the global climate system.

“Transformation of the Arctic landscape, and of Inuit lives and livelihoods that are intricately tied to this landscape, will only be accelerated and further devastated by the raging forest fires in the Amazon that are raising global temperatures and fueling further melting of sea ice and glaciers,” the Inuit Circumpolar Council’s president for Canada, Monica Ell-Kanayuk, said on Tuesday, Aug. 27, in a press release. (Nunatsiaq News)


January 14, 2022


Fed. Govt.

Pacific Salmon Treaty

First Nations Law – The Tŝilhqot’in call on Canada to establish an independent review of the Pacific Salmon Treaty and the failure by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to meaningfully represent First Nation interests, including food, social and ceremonial fishing rights, at the international table. In 2019, the Alaska catch of Chilko salmon was almost 45,000 and only 158,000 returned to spawn in the territory, which means that Alaska was responsible for taking over 20% of the run, despite the numbers being so low that conservation measures were implemented throughout B.C.

While the Tŝilhqot’in Nation has made substantial economic, lifestyle and cultural sacrifices to conserve endangered salmon, Canada has stood silent while watching the U.S. permitting overfishing our already mismanaged stocks. The Tŝilhqot’in Nation calls for an independent review of the Pacific Salmon Treaty, with Tŝilhqot’in appointed representatives’ participation, and leading to new structures and renegotiation with the U.S.


July 18, 2018


AB, N/A

The High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development at the United Nations Economic and Social Council

Indigenous Group: Assembly of First Nations

Business: Member states of the United Nations

Issue: This is the main forum to ensure States are accountable for commitments in the 2030 Agenda, which includes 17 sustainable development goals adopted by the United Nations.

Comment: in September 2015. Treaty 6 Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild spoke to the work Canada must undertake with First Nations to meet international sustainable development goals, including respecting Canada’s international human rights commitments and obligations to Indigenous peoples

Last Update: July 18, 2018: Assembly of First Nations – “First Nations priorities and perspectives were not included in the development of either the Millennium Development Goals or the successor Sustainable Development Goals. The UN Declaration should be the framework for measurement, in collaboration with First Nations on a nation-to-nation basis to ensure sustainable development goals contribute to First Nations’ own priorities for sustainable development and do not negatively affect our rights and priorities respecting development.”


Other Background Content By Theme


Specific Industry Environmental Issues

Read more


Indigenous Leadership Initiative: Guardians

Read more


Indigenous Circle of Experts

Read more


Canadian Energy Regulator: Indigenous Advisory Committee

Read more


Indigenous Opposition to Bill C-69

Read more


Indigenous Alliances

Read more