Broad claims by politicians on behalf of Indigenous peoples reveal how little
public recognition there is of the great efforts Indigenous peoples have made
to secure a fair place for their communities and companies in the resource
sector. Pipeline firms have numerous agreements with Indigenous communities.
So do forestry and mining companies. Indigenous leaders may oppose one
project, but accept another.
The lessons for Canadian politicians should be clear by now. Not all Indigenous
peoples oppose development. Many, if not most, realize their hopes for economic
well-being and independence from the Government of Canada rest on carefully
planned and appropriately structured resource projects.
Ken Coates is a Munk Senior Fellow with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.
Federal NDP leadership candidate and current Ontario MPP, Jagmeet Singh, is the latest politician to jump into the critical world of Indigenous affairs by offering quick and simple solutions to complex issues.
He has declared that he will, if elected prime minister, adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline to the B.C. coast and kill the Energy East pipeline for good measure.
These are no doubt popular positions in some NDP circles, and even with significant numbers of Indigenous communities, but it is a mistake to project them uncritically onto Indigenous peoples.
As Mr. Singh’s website declares, “Not only does significantly increasing oil production and international oil exports through these pipeline projects undermine our efforts to reduce our emissions, but it conflicts with UNDRIP. Canada needs to commit to UNDRIP and this means saying no to the Kinder Morgan and Energy East pipeline projects.”
Mr. Singh is not alone. BC NDP premier-designate John Horgan and his Green Party partner, Andrew Weaver, also support UNDRIP and have repeatedly opposed major resource projects, including Kinder Morgan and the Site C dam. They have also indicated a commitment to community-centred consultation and the general empowerment of Indigenous peoples, which is certainly positive.