UN Committee expresses continued concern with Canada in relation to megaprojects that lack Indigenous consent

Published by Brent Patterson on

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The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) is the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by its State parties. Canada ratified this United Nations Convention more than 50 years ago on October 14, 1970.

On December 13, 2019, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination passed a resolution expressing its concern about the construction of the Site C dam (on Treaty 8 territory), the Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline on Secwepemc territory, and the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory.

It notes its concern about the Canadian government’s “refusal to consider free, prior and informed consent as a requirement” for these megaprojects.

And it called on Canada to immediately stop the construction of the Site C dam, the Trans Mountain pipeline and the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

Canada responded to the CERD resolution of December 13, 2019 more than six months later in a letter dated July 7, 2020 (after the RCMP raided Wet’suwet’en territory a second time in February 2020).

By November 24, 2020, CERD had replied by letter to Canada’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Leslie Norton.

Their letter states:

The Committee takes note of the information provided regarding the interpretation of the free, prior and informed consent principle and the duty to consult. The Committee also notes that the State party plans to introduce legislation by the end of 2020 … similar to the legislation adopted by the provincial Government of British Columbia.

The Committee regrets the State party interprets the free, prior and informed consent principle as well as the duty to consult as a duty to engage in a meaningful and good faith dialogue with indigenous peoples and to guarantee a process, but not a particular result.

Further, the Committee regrets that the State party has provided no information on measures taken to address the concerns [about the three megaprojects] raised by the Committee in its decision of 13 December 2019.

In this regard, and in accordance with article 9 (1) of the Convention [on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination] and article 65 of the Rules of Procedure, the Committee invites the State party to provided updated information in its 21st to 23rd combined periodic measures taken to address all the issues contained in the decision referred to above.

The Committee notes that the State party’s 21st to 23rd combined periodic report is due on 15 November 2021.

This refers to the obligation of all signatories to the Convention to submit regular reports to the Committee on how the rights are being implemented.

The full UN CERD resolution of December 2019 can be read here. The full UN CERD follow-up letter of November 2020 can be seen below and read here.


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