Environment: Current Problems

Fed. Govt.

November 3, 2017

Climate Change

Canadian Council of Ministers of the Envronment must include Indigenous views

Assembly of First Nations – First Nations must be full participants in all meetings of Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) to ensure their voices are heard in environmental and climate change solutions.

“Reconciliation has to include respect for our Elder’s traditional knowledge and our understanding of the lands and waters, the animals and plant life. We have a central role to play in lawmaking in this area, and we have responsibilities to safeguard our traditional territories and our people. We hold valuable knowledge that can help everyone in maintaining a healthy environment for all our children.” The AFN has created the Advisory Committee on Climate Action and the Environment (ACCAE) and is currently establishing a network of climate coordinators across Canada. The Assembly is also working with First Nations Elders on the development of an Indigenous Knowledge policy that would support federal efforts to better respond to the impacts of climate change and other environment issues.

In his presentation to the CCME, the National Chief advanced three points:

  • Establish “regional tables” between First Nations and provinces and territories to ensure First Nation participation within the different regions;
  • First Nations’ law must also be accommodated and recognized, in addition to common law and civil law, when dealing with environment and climate change regulation and management as a way to express and share First Nations’ traditional knowledge and responsibilities to safe guard the lands, wildlife, waters, and resources;
  • First Nations must be involved as key players in the emerging economic industry for clean energy, adaptation, and mitigation.

September 27, 2019

Climate Change

Cree Nation imput into climate change policy

Cree Nation Government – Proposed government action must be inclusive of Cree observations and efforts in the fight against climate change. Our privileged relationship with the territory is fundamental to the proper and meaningful development of government policies on climate change for Eeyou Istchee. Government policies must take into account the experiences of Indigenous communities threatened by this ever-growing crisis.

The COMEX, a James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA) – protected environmental review board – established in 1975 – has already begun taking into consideration climate change when analyzing impacts from all development projects. Sensitive and high carbon-stock forests are being planned into regionally protected areas. Local greenhouse projects and Styrofoam bans have been contributing to the escalating social conversation in the Cree Nation.

“The Cree Nation has been proactive in observing and adapting to the risks of climate change threatening traditional activities and way of life. Communities understand firsthand the severity of this, but are also in a position to provide invaluable direction to policies. We insist that governments, federal and provincial, include the Cree Nation in the elaboration of climate change policies imperative to the sustainability of our development, a cornerstone of our 1975 JBNQA treaty.”, declared Grand Chief Dr. Abel Bosum.

Impact Assessment Agency of Canada – An important component of the JBNQA is Environmental and Social Protection (sections 22 and 23) that contain provisions related to the undesirable environmental impact and social effects of development. The provisions attempt to maximize positive effects while assessing their impact.

February 13, 2020

Environmental Impacts

Criticisms of Federal Impact Assessment Act

FACETS – “Indigenous knowledge and federal environmental assessments in Canada: applying past lessons to the 2019 impact assessment act”. Even the most contemporary federal Environmental Assessment framework in Canada ultimately fails to ensure the engagement of the critically important knowledge of Indigenous peoples in environmental decision-making. While we identify that Impact Assessment Act fails to substantially improve the relationship between Indigenous Knowledge and Environmental Assessment (EA), it has faced severe and continuing backlash from industry proponents and many non-Indigenous Canadians for the few improvements it does make. Canadian EA thus misses opportunities to inform environmental decisions with the best available knowledge and to support Indigenous rights, sovereignty, and well-being.

We suggest widespread recognition of Indigenous-led EA as a way forward, alongside cooperative assessments designed by Crown and Indigenous authorities. Indigenous-led EA, which is fortified by millennia of experience in natural resource management and environmental decision-making practices is on-going in Canada and represents a reassertion of Indigenous management rights that may respond comprehensively to legal, historical, epistemological, and political obstacles. This process, developed specifically by and for Indigenous Nations, has the potential to improve relationships between governments, project proponents, and practitioners while upholding human rights.

Recommendations from these panels were similar to the suggestions that emerged from our literature review and called for:

  • Indigenous power in the decision-making process
  • explicit recognition of land and treaty rights
  • legally binding adherence to UNDRIP
  • increased funding programs and opportunities
  • oversight of IK by Indigenous peoples, and
  • recognition of fundamental differences in western and Indigenous Knowledge, culture, and worldview (Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency 2017)

While the Impact Assessment Act does provide provisions for the protection of IK, and owing to amendments made by the House of Commons does invoke UNDRIP, many of the panels’ additional recommendations remain unaddressed.
https://www.facetsjournal.com/doi/10.1139/facets-2019-0039 – ref23

November 18, 2020

Environmental Impacts

DFO cancels consultation with Mi’kmaw over fish passage in Avon River

Kwilmu’kw Maw-klusuaqn Negotiation Office (KMKNO),– this week the Consultation Department received notice – without explanation – from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) that a Ministerial Order (MO) that DFO developed to address concerns with the Avon River was no longer being issued. This MO was to be implemented weeks ago and instead is now being considered – not guaranteed – for next Spring. Despite multiple requests for additional information and the opportunity to discuss this decision further, requests to DFO are largely being ignored.

The Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia have been clear that free-flowing fish passage is required at the mouth of the Avon River and there is clear evidence that the current causeway structure is not allowing fish to complete their life cycle. In efforts to address this, last month DFO brought a draft MO to the Consultation table for discussion and all parties had agreed that the MO would make positive changes to the alarming situation on the Avon River. The draft MO directly spoke to the concerns on the protection of fish and the improvements necessary to fish passage for the critically endangered Inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic Salmon. Mi’kmaq concerns of fish mortality, lack of free-flowing fish passage, and the need for restoration of critical salt marsh habitat continued to be voiced by the Assembly, Mi’kmaw environmental organizations, concerned community members, and the Water Protectors who have remained onsite.

The Mi’kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada Consultation Process was established to meaningfully engage and adequately address the concerns and impacts on Mi’kmaw rights. Clearly that is not happening with the decisions being made on the Avon River. The Assembly is calling on Minister Jordan and DFO to come to the table with answers as it is imperative to yielding healthy results to fish passage in the Avon River.

December 1, 2018

Environmental Impacts

Failure to protect Woodland Cariboo

Government of Canada – “Progress Report on Steps Taken to Protect Critical Habitat for the Woodland Caribou” indicates little progress is being made toward conservation. Meanwhile, provinces continue to issue permits for energy and forestry developments that do not comply with Species At Risk Act (SARA) , placing caribou at even greater risk. (David Suzuki Foundation)

Canada’s Species at Risk Act requires provinces to create plans to ensure at least 65 per cent of caribou habitat is protected and restored to help them survive.

This report notes that there continue to be gaps in comprehensive protection for boreal caribou critical habitat throughout the boreal caribou range… Most importantly, the development of regionally-specific range plans through meaningful partnership with Indigenous Peoples and broad engagement with multi-stakeholder groups, and their implementation, including through effective laws, regulations and policies, are central to achieving this outcome.

March 26, 2021

Climate Change

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act

The AFN, based on direction from the Chiefs-in-Assembly, intervened in this case, as well as court cases in Saskatchewan, Ontario and Alberta, arguing the Government of Canada has a direct legal obligation to recognize Aboriginal and Treaty rights in any legislative efforts to address climate change.

March 25, 2021

Climate Change

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act

Supreme Court finds that the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act 2018 is constitutional.

March 25, 2021

Climate Change

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act

Westaway Law Group – The majority judges noted that climate change “has had particularly serious effects on Indigenous peoples, threatening the ability of Indigenous communities in Canada to sustain themselves and maintain their traditional ways of life.” [para 11] They also acknowledged that, “the effects of climate change are and will continue to be experienced across Canada, with heightened impacts in the Canadian Arctic, coastal regions and Indigenous territories.” [para 12] These are important acknowledgements on the part of the Court, and no doubt had some impact on their assessment that the matters addressed in the GGPPA are matters of national concern.

Although the Court did not specifically make reference to s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, as noted, the result is consistent with the evidence and arguments put forward on behalf of First Nation interveners.

October 20, 2020

Climate Change

Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act

Toronto Star – The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) reserved judgement on whether the federal government’s Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act 2018 (GGPPA) is constitutional following hearings on September 22 and 23 with the United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising (UCCMM), along with the Anishinabek Nation (AN), granted intervener status.

The GGPPA sets minimum standards for carbon pricing on provinces that have not implemented an equivalent provincial program. The provinces argued that they should have control of greenhouse gas (GHG) policies while environmental advocates and other interveners asked the court to recognize the necessity of a national response to climate change.

“The UCCMM intervened in this case because climate change disproportionately affects First Nation communities, our traditional way of life and our ability to assert and exercise jurisdiction in relation to environmental issues that directly impact their lands and their people,” said Patsy Corbiere, UCCMM Tribal Chair. “As stewards of the largest freshwater island in the world we are ensuring that the courts take into account the Anishinabek perspective when determining if climate change is a matter of national concern. As the quality and quantity of our natural resources and medicines continue to diminish with the effects of climate change, it is vital that our voices be heard and our rights be respected.”

In the current appeal to SCC, the AN and UCCMM urged the court to “adopt an approach to the issues in this case which allows jurisdictional space for all levels of government: federal, provincial and Indigenous, in regulation of critical environmental matters.” Patricia Lawrence from Westaway Law Group, appearing on behalf of the AN and UCCMM, argued that “First Nations should not be left without effective redress as a result of federal-provincial jurisdictional disputes.

The Crown must be held accountable for the protection and preservation of the aboriginal and treaty rights recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. If the provinces are unable to effectively protect these rights, the federal government must be permitted to step in and enact legislation,” said Chief Corbiere.