Tag Archives: Treaty Rights

Feds pressed to define ‘free, prior and informed consent’ in UNDRIP bill

Protesters block a rail line in Edmonton in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, on Feb. 19, 2020. PHOTO BY DAVID BLOOM/POSTMEDIA NEWS

OTTAWA — Federal officials are facing calls for greater clarity on how a bill to harmonize Canada’s laws with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples could affect future development projects and government decisions.

Opposition MPs studying Bill C-15 are asking why the Liberals have not included a definition of a key article from the UN declaration that would compel Ottawa to obtain “free, prior and informed consent” from Indigenous Peoples on any decisions that affect their lands or rights.

Conservatives have raised concerns that this provision would give First Nations a “veto” over development projects, but Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett says there is “complete consensus” from legal and Indigenous experts that this is not the case.

Pressed today on whether she would personally support a more definitive interpretation of “free, prior and informed consent” in the bill, Bennett says she would “worry” about this move.

Bennett says a consensus would be needed among Indigenous partners co-developing the bill with the government on how to define this consent provision — something that has not been reached to date.

She adds her government is listening to calls from a number of national Indigenous organizations looking for changes to strengthen the bill and ensure their existing land and treaty rights are not frozen or eroded by this new law.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 20, 2021.


If Indigenous fishers had gone on a rampage, RCMP would have used force

RCMP, commercial fishermen and First Nations fishermen congregate at a blockade outside a New Edinburgh lobster pound earlier this week. – Tina Comeau

By Adam Bond

Tensions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous fishers crossed a violent and deeply concerning threshold this week when non-Indigenous mobs lashed out against the Mi’kmaq.

Hundreds of non-Indigenous ruffians grouped together on Tuesday night to swarm Mi’kmaw fishers and destroy their property with the obvious political intent of stopping them from exercising their constitutionally protected rights.

To be clear, the actions of these gangs were intended to terrorize the Mi’kmaw people and deliberately flout the law.

The Supreme Court of Canada has consistently upheld the principle that Indigenous fishing rights are protected under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. The court has specifically recognized that the constitutionally guaranteed treaty rights of the Mi’kmaq to fish take the highest priority, after legitimate conservation measures, and include their right to gain a moderate livelihood through their fishing activities.

The Indigenous Peoples of Canada have suffered greatly through the long history of colonization. First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities, families and individuals continue to be among the most marginalized and impoverished peoples in the country. The impacts of colonization are particularly pronounced on Indigenous women, who continue to face disproportionate rates of poverty and food insecurity.

Exercising constitutionally protected treaty rights to fish and earn a moderate livelihood is an inspiring and crucially important component of the efforts by Indigenous Peoples in Canada to push back against the tide of poverty and hunger. Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians alike should be proud of the Mi’kmaw fishers, including Mi’kmaw women, who have stood up for their rights and helped their people take charge over their own self-determination.

Moreover, any actions to intimidate and attack them for exercising their rights and fighting against the crippling effects of poverty should be met with a resounding and immediate course of national outrage from every corner of the country. But the crickets, in this case, are deafening.

Although the move toward reconciliation has been difficult, advances have been made in recent times. The violent actions by these mobs against the Mi’kmaw fisheries threatens to set back the progress that has been made.

It may well be that some groups and individuals have legitimate concerns respecting Indigenous fishing practices, and it is possible that some of them do not properly understand Indigenous rights and treaty rights. These are concerns that can be assuaged through dialogue. And if that doesn’t satisfy, the disputes can be resolved through the courts.

But these mobs have chosen to skirt the ordinary channels open to Canadians who seek to resolve their differences. Their terrorizing and criminal actions were clearly motivated by racist hate and they constitute a brazen disregard for the rule of law, constitutional rights and reconciliation.

Despite these criminal actions, and in complete disregard for the fiduciary duty owed by the Crown to Indigenous Peoples, the RCMP’s response has been muted at best.

Should the roles have been reversed, I strongly suspect the response from law enforcement would have been significantly different. I cannot envision the RCMP standing calmly by as an angry mob of Indigenous people destroyed property, burned vehicles and threatened violence.

When the Mohawks erected barricades to protect their lands from the encroachment of a golf course in Oka in 1990, the state responded with heavily armed police and 800 soldiers from the Canadian Armed Forces.

When the Chippewas of Kettle and Stoney Point First Nation sought to reclaim their lands unlawfully taken by the federal government, heavily armed OPP officers responded with deadly force on Sept. 6, 1995, killing the unarmed rights activist, Dudley George.

 When Wet’suwet’en defenders set up camps to protect their lands from industrial development, the RCMP responded with armed raids and mass arrests.

The people attacking the Mi’kmaq are victimizing members of one of the most marginalized and oppressed groups in Canadian society. They are terrorizing First Nations fishers who are eking out a moderate livelihood to support their families and communities, and the many Indigenous women who fill pivotal roles in fisheries-related activities. And yet law enforcement has done little to stand in their way.

It is a sad reality that, in Canada, when Indigenous people undertake peaceful non-cooperation measures to protect their rights, the state responds with militarized and violent attacks, but when violent non-Indigenous criminal mobs attack Indigenous people for exercising their rights, the state responds with muted police indifference.

This is the sorry state of reconciliation in Canada today.

Adam Bond is legal counsel for the Indigenous Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC)

This article was first published in The Chronicle Herald on October 16, 2020. 


Indigenous Protesters Ordered to Pay Oil Giant Thousands Over Pipeline Legal Battle

Haudenosaunee man Todd Williams has been ordered to pay thousands in legal fees after disrupting work in protest at Enbridge dig sites in Hamilton this year. (Adam Carter/CBC)

Haudenosaunee men spent months protesting at Enbridge dig sites

By Adam Carter

Todd Williams spent months sparring with Enbridge all over Hamilton, trying to disrupt the company’s pipeline operations. And now it’s costing him.

After a legal battle with the oil giant that centred on the company’s property rights versus Indigenous treaty and hunting rights, Williams and another Haudenosaunee man, Wayne Hill, were ordered by a Superior Court in Hamilton this month to pay Enbridge $25,381.81 in legal fees. The costs award comes after Enbridge won an injunction barring them from maintenance dig sites.

Williams says that Enbridge has approached him with an offer to forgo those costs if he agrees to stay away, but he isn’t sure if he wants to sacrifice his principles.

He contends that Enbridge’s isn’t properly consulting with Aboriginal communities about maintenance work on its Line 10 pipeline, which runs through Hamilton — though Enbridge says otherwise.

“It’s about not allowing us to participate. We’re concerned about the land,” Williams said.

“We have rights — treaty rights.”

An Enbridge spokesperson said she couldn’t comment on the specifics of the case as it’s before the courts, but Senior Communications Adviser Suzanne Wilton told CBC News that “seeking legal remedies is always a last resort.”

“Safety is our top priority and these steps were necessary to ensure that preventative maintenance required for the continued safe operation of our pipeline could continue,” she said. “We would prefer to achieve mutually agreeable solutions through conversation.”

Blocking roads and tearing down fences

According to court documents filed as part of the injunction, Enbridge says that Williams and Hill have been “regularly interfering” with its work crews at maintenance dig sites along the pipeline since Jan. 26, 2017.

The documents say there have been “dozens” of incidents where Williams interfered with work crews, and at least six incidents involving Hill.

“Enbridge alleges that one or both of the defendants have torn down snow fences, blocked roads and gates, and have verbally demanded that work be shut down,” the documents say. “In one incident Mr. Williams blocked a maintenance dig site such that Enbridge employees working at the site could not leave until he was persuaded to move his truck.

“Enbridge alleges that after two weeks of obstruction the defendants placed rabbit traps to obstruct its access to certain maintenance dig sites, asserting treaty hunting rights.”

Williams says he used these kinds of traps at Enbridge dig sites in Hamilton. (Adam Carter/CBC)

Other protests have sprung up over Enbridge pipelines in Hamilton in recent years, including an occupation of the North Westover pump station in 2013.

Williams, who is an engineer, is part of the Haudenosaunee Development Institute (HDI), which is in turn part of the traditional Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council.

He wants Enbridge to notify the HDI of work along the pipeline, and to pay to have Haudenosaunee monitoring staff on worksites to make sure the work is being done safely and to environmental standards.

In court documents, Enbridge says that it wrote letters to two First Nations (Six Nations of the Grand River and the Mississaugas of the New Credit) and to HDI describing the nature of the work.

For Williams, that wasn’t enough. “We need more engagement, more consultation than just a notice,” he said.

Treaty rights versus property rights

Williams says he started camping out at sites and setting traps (which are humane cage traps), citing the Nanfan Treaty of 1701, which he says include his harvesting and hunting rights to the land.

In the end, the court found that Enbridge was entitled to an injunction restraining Williams and Hill from interfering with any dig sites.

“They determined their rights override my treaty rights. They’re pretty much saying I can’t have my treaty rights on private property,” Williams said.

“Well, when that agreement was signed, there was no private property.”

Williams said that ruling is not being appealed.

Workers were present at the Enbridge maintenance dig site on Wilson Street in Ancaster on Tuesday. (Adam Carter/CBC)

In the end, the two men are now on the hook for Enbridge’s legal costs — which amounts to $18,387.81 to Williams and $7,000 for Hill.

Williams says that he can dip into his retirement funds to pay it off, but that treaty rights and environmental safety are both bigger issues.

He also says that Enbridge has made an offer to forgive the costs award, if he stays away from the company’s work sites for two years.

Enbridge would not confirm or deny that offer when asked, citing the court proceedings.

“I’m considering it, but we’re talking about my rights and how they’re considered,” Williams said.

“If I get up and walk away, they’re just going to continue.”

Article By Adam Carter, originally posted in CBC News on May 31, 2017



RCMP ‘Neutral’ As Mi’kmaq Set Up Camp On Island Near AltaGas Construction Site

Protesters say a small group of Mi'kmaq used the land to place a fishing trap and the aboriginal participants were within their treaty rights to use the area for fishing.

Protesters say a small group of Mi’kmaq used the land to place a fishing trap and the aboriginal participants were within their treaty rights to use the area for fishing.

The Canadian Press , Sept 12, 2016

STEWIACKE, N.S. — The RCMP says it is staying “neutral” as AltaGas Ltd. and Mi’kmaq protesters are at odds over aboriginal presence on a tiny island near the energy company’s proposed underground natural gas storage caverns.

Opponents of the Alton storage project briefly went out Sunday to the small island that formed where the tidal Shubenacadie River meets a channel in which briny water is to be discharged.

The Mounties said they’ve been contacted by the company and are aware of the incident that drew police cruisers to the scene, but the police force was not being definitive about what officers will do if similar incidents continue.

“The RCMP position on people entering the area behind the construction zone is … we are committed to remaining neutral on all matters. With this, our role in such matters is to keep the peace and to protect property,” said RCMP spokesman Cpl. Dal Hutchinson in a telephone interview.

Cheryl Maloney, the president of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association, said she was confident the Mi’kmaq have a right to be on the island for fishing purposes granted by treaty.

“We moved over to the island, but they (company security guards) couldn’t reach us because there was a channel in between,” she said.

The police were called to the site by Alton representatives and a number of RCMP cruisers waited near the scene, as a group of private security workers observed an encampment created by Mi’kmaq and other opponents of the storage project, which was approved earlier this year by the province.

Hutchinson said six or seven RCMP cruisers were at the scene on Sunday.

Maloney says she expects to hear from Alton (TSX:ALA) about the incident, but doesn’t believe the Mi’kmaq protesters broke any laws.

“I think the police were a little hesitant to arrest us for exercising our aboriginal treaty rights,” she said. As she spoke, the tentpoles and the Mi’kmaq flags were still flying at the site of the tiny island along the banks of the tidal river.

“Let them explain that to the courts if they feel we don’t have the right to be there. We do have the right to be there. We will be there,” she said.

The company says it respects the right of individuals to express their views, but adds the project has been approved by the Environment Department, and access to the work site is restricted for safety reasons.

Lori Maclean of AltaGas confirmed that law enforcement agencies were contacted on Monday about the Mi’kmaq presence on the island.

“We will continue to engage with the government, the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia, local residents and other stakeholders to answer questions about Alton and to address concerns. Since 2006, Alton has been meeting with stakeholders including landowners, community members, government and the Mi’kmaq to share information and exchange viewpoints in a respectful manner,” she wrote.

The company notes the project has received all needed environmental and industrial approvals for the storage project, following over eight years of scientific monitoring of the tidal river.

“Brining is the process to be used at Alton to dissolve an underground salt formation and create the natural gas storage caverns. The water used to dissolve the salt will come from the tidal Shubenacadie River. The brine created by this process, a mixture of tidal water and the dissolved salt, will be released back into the river at a salinity level within the range of normal salinity for the river,” Maclean wrote.

Maloney said Mi’kmaq and local residents remain concerned that increasing salinity in the river poses a risk to some fish species.

The group has erected signs at the site declaring it is a conservation zone operated by the Sipekne’katik district of the Mi’kmaq people.

She said she and other volunteers plan to create a weir this week to catch fish and create some baseline data so that the Mi’kmaq can carry out their own scientific research to see what impact the project could have.

Maloney also said the Mi’kmaq protesters aren’t looking for confrontation, but are prepared to exercise aboriginal rights to use the river.

“We’re not budging. If Canada … doesn’t want to protect and defend us, we’re still going to stay here,” she said.

Maclean said construction is ongoing at Alton and a date for the start of brining has not been finalized. She notes that a court decision released in July affirms brining can take place.


‘Good Riddance’: Canada’s Stephen Harper Bids Adieu To Politics, Hello To Consulting

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who just announced his resignation. (Photo: Heather/flickr/cc)

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who just announced his resignation. (Photo: Heather/flickr/cc)

Former prime minister made resignation announcement Friday

by Andrea Germanos, staff writer | Common Dreams‎

As expected, former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced his resignation from Parliament, saying that he’s now gearing up for “for the next chapter of my life.”

That chapter, as the Toronto Star reports, includes “launching a global consulting business.”

Harper posted the news Friday on his social media accounts, saying, “I leave elected office proud of what our team accomplished together.”

For the 57-year-old, the resignation marks the end of “nearly two often-tumultuous decades in public office,” Mississauga News reports.

Harper lost power in October in a “devastating election defeat” when his Conservative Party lost to the Justin Trudeau-led Liberal Party.

Since then, the Star adds, he “has only appeared in the Commons for votes since he lost power last fall, and has never spoken in debate as the MP for Calgary Heritage.”

The country “shifted to the center-right under Harper,” the Associated Press writes, and, as Common Dreams has reported,

During his tenure as Prime Minister, which spanned from 2006-2015, Harper was known internationally for pushing through an aggressive conservative agenda which included: wholesale investment in fossil fuels, including Canadian tar sands; blocking international efforts to combat climate change; dismantling civil liberties through mass surveillance; unflinching support of Israel and attempts to outlaw pro-Palestinian boycott movements; supporting numerous wars overseas; and willfully ignoring the treaty rights of Canadian First Nations, among many other things.

As for his new career, the National Post reports that he “has already lined up an impressive and potentially lucrative post-politics career that includes a new consulting business with international clients, board directorships and joining a speakers’ bureau.”

Our direction

Following the election in October, Andrew Mitrovica wrote at Ricochet:

Like millions of Canadians, I’m glad he’s gone and taken his tawdry ideas—if you can even call them that—about who Canadians are and what Canada stands for with him into political oblivion. I’m not going to waste a nanosecond pondering his ignominious “place” in this nation’s history, his toxic “legacy” or what he’s going to do next. Justin Trudeau is like a nicely wrapped confection.

Look, he’ll be just fine. Chances are Harper’s going to do what other ex-prime ministers have done when voters tell them emphatically to get lost… he will cash in big time. I suspect the make–believe economist will quickly join a high-powered law firm somewhere in Canada or maybe the United States and turn into a make-believe lawyer. He’ll also accept lots of invitations to sit on lots of corporate boards that will pay him lots of money to act as a glorified lobbyist.

Like Brian Mulroney and Jean Chrétien before him, he’ll happily trade in the “noble calling of public service” to become a highly paid gun-for-hire in a pinstriped suit doing lucrative mega business deals with influential politicians and CEOs he befriended along the way. Some elder statesman.

Good riddance, Harper. Don’t let the closet doors hit you on the way out of the PMO.

On Twitter, writer and Ricochet founding editor Derrick O’Keefe similarly summed up many progressives’ response to the new development: