What is First Nations Place in Pipeline Construction?

by andrewsd on Octobre 12, 2016 - 9:45am

Conflicts between Canadian indigenous peoples, government and oil companies are increasing. Oil companies are looking to construct new pipelines to bring Alberta tar sands to other parts of the world but to do so they must interfere with indigenous peoples’ traditional territory.

What Perry Bellagarde, Assembly of First Nations Chief, brings to notion is that pipelines construction like Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline in British-Colombia should not start without the consent of the First Nations. He also warns government and oil companies that if projects are approved that they will be met with strong opposition and direct action.

            This comes after the new liberal government changed Canada’s objector status on the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) recognizing First Nation’s consent. Prior to the signing of UNDRIP the federal government only had the “duty to consult and accommodate” First Nations people.

             After reading UNDRIP it is my understanding that First Nations group can’t “veto” any project on their traditional territory. But they can argue that they are disturbing other rights outlined in UNDRIP like article 8.1 “Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture.” The principle of “vetoing” a project leaves politicians uneasy and was the reason why the previous Harper government was an objector of UNDRIP.

Before the liberal signed onto UNDRIP the government only had a “duty to consult and accommodate” First Nations. Government would only have to tell First Nations that a project is going to go through on their traditional lands. The First Nations people have felt powerless because there is not much they can do to protect their lands. Therefore, consult and consent is significantly different.

Mr. Bellagarde says that First Nations support development but only if it is done responsibly. Instead of just being brought off with benefits by the government and companies, First Nations want to be an equal player on the developments frontier.  I agree with Perry Bellagarde and hope that the government and oil companies respect UNDRIP and First Nation communities. I would never support the destruction of a community or environment for cooperate greed especially my own community. The First Nations and oil companies exhibit value conflict. The oil companies value the lands for the money potential and the First Nations value their land for the environment and because it allows them to practice their culture.

I believe this “free, prior and informed consent” should be a practice within all communities not only First Nation communities. But more importantly, First Nations can exercise “self-determination” as outlined in UNDRIP article 4 “Indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to self-determination, have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as ways and means for financing their autonomous functions.”

In the context of pipeline construction and other large projects, I believe that First Nations should be equal partners to the oil companies, just as equal as the governing body oil companies must answer to. Oil companies should not have to get “consent” only from the government but also from First Nation communities. Companies must prove that their project will be environmentally safe and will not the damage the First Nations right to practice their culture.




Perry Bellegarde asserts importance of indigenous consent for pipelines. (2016). The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 5 October 2016, from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-a...

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. (2016). United Nations. Retrieved 5 October 2016, from http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/DRIPS_en.pdf

Free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) | Forest Peoples Programme. (2016). Forestpeoples.org. Retrieved 5 October 2016, from http://www.forestpeoples.org/guiding-principles/free-prior-and-informed-...