Photo: D-Day for Indigenous rights at the Supreme Court of Canada

(Credit: Greenpeace)

By Faisal Moola, Director General Ontario and Northern Canada, with contributions from Communications and Public Affairs Specialist Diego Creimer

On November 30 the Supreme Court of Canada will hear two cases regarding destructive activities carried out by the National Energy Board and oil companies in or around the traditional territories of Clyde River Inuit and Chippewas of the Thames First Nation. These cases have many aspects in common, hence the decision to hear them at the same time.

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At the core of the cases is the Crown's constitutional duty to consult Indigenous peoples on resource development projects within their territories. For the past two years, the community of Clyde River has been fighting to overturn a 2014 NEB decision that allows a group of oil exploration companies to conduct seismic testing in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait. Clyde River argues that the NEB did not sufficiently consult with Inuit on seismic testing projects. The case also raises questions about the legitimacy of the NEB to represent the Crown when consulting with Indigenous peoples.

Besides threatening wildlife and compromising the traditional hunt essential to Inuit survival in a region where food security is a chronic problem, the approval of seismic exploration against the will of Baffin Island Inuit is a clear violation of their rights under international law set out by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Similarly, Chippewas of the Thames First Nation challenged the NEBs approval of the reversal of Enbridge's Line 9 pipeline between Sarnia and Montreal and deplore the lack of consultation with the community about this major pipeline passing where an oil spill could devastate the land and water.

The upcoming Supreme Court decision on these cases could be a landmark judgment and create jurisprudence that will reshape the future of resource development projects in Indigenous territories throughout the country. It will also clarify the NEB's role in consultations with Indigenous peoples, and the limit of its prerogatives to represent the Crown.

In this defining moment in the history of Indigenous rights in Canada, the David Suzuki Foundation reasserts:

We support Indigenous claims to be thoroughly consulted about development projects that threaten their way of life and culture, as is their right under Canada's constitution and international law. We also endorse the requirement to obtain their explicit consent for resource extraction projects proposed in their traditional territories.

Chippewas of the Thames First Nation and Clyde River Inuit are making an historic effort to defend their land and water from the impacts of fossil fuel development. By doing so, they are showing solidarity with all people in Canada concerned about climate change and Indigenous rights. We will stand in solidarity with them and all Indigenous peoples for their right to thrive in a healthy environment.

This is an opportunity for all people in Canada to show solidarity with Indigenous peoples opposing destructive development projects. Their inspiring battles and resilience light a possible path to environmental justice and reconciliation.

November 24, 2016

Post a comment


Nov 30, 2016
10:02 AM

Too often the indigenous people in Canada have been gnored, betrayed, and deprived of their share, It is about time that the Government of Canada lived up to it’s committments and dealt fairly with these Canadians.

Nov 26, 2016
6:19 AM

To allow further oil exploration goes against all our promises of reconciliation.

Nov 25, 2016
4:29 AM

I support the rights of the indigenous people to be consulted before any testing in their area!

Nov 24, 2016
11:17 PM

We the Canadian public will take any government body or appointed group to task, to make clear that the government is to follow and enforce the will of the public. That’s for those of us of the general population. Agreements made with Aboriginal Peoples must also be respected and enforced, even against dollar wielding private enterprises. Our politicians of the past have already passed on enough things for which we all had to apologize for! This would not stop progress but hopefully remind us all to take the slower, cautious path to protect what we have.

M.J. Adams

Nov 24, 2016
10:15 PM

Wonderful. Wish I could relocate from the states. Canada is light years ahead of us here. Good work.. Canada is on the correct path. I will suggest that the federal and state office holders read your posts.

Nov 24, 2016
9:33 PM

It’s High time for the government to realize that the first native of the land have to be considered first since the treaties have never been taken seriously and the government always found a way to run over their agreement. It is time for the government to know how much damage the totally unnecessary seismic testing for oil that would totally destroy the arctic waters and lively hood of the people’s.

It’s time to do the right way for the people.

Nov 24, 2016
2:35 PM

I support their cause.

Nov 24, 2016
11:47 AM

The more that people realize that we only have one planet that we all share, the more that everyone will come together in order to save it. The combustion engine is an old technology whose time has come to an end. Those that think that resources will last forever are living in a dream world that will come crashing down. When people prepare for the future and take action, we can change attitudes, protect the environment and build a sustainable economy. First nations are stewards of the earth, and we have a lot to learn from them. Take care David Suzuki.

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