A national “elders advisory board” and other First Nations oversight should be mandatory for all pipeline and resource project applications, says Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) Chief Bobby Cameron.
“Our elders have said it time and time again. We have to and we must protect the lands and waters so that future generations can enjoy what we have,” Cameron said Wednesday afternoon during an FSIN gathering at the Dakota Dunes Casino ballroom just south of Saskatoon.
First Nations should also have a seat on the National Energy Board, Cameron said.
The comments come in response to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s approval of a pair of pipeline projects. One of them, the Line 3 pipeline, runs through or near the territory of several Saskatchewan First Nations.
‘It is in the best interest of us all to learn from the Standing Rock experience and find solutions’ – Chief Bobby Cameron
Cameron said the lack of consultation by the government has been extremely frustrating.
That must improve dramatically if industry and government hope to win the consent of First Nations people.
Calgary-based Enbridge Inc. has offered to meet with some Saskatchewan First Nations on Friday. Cameron said it’s a positive development, but only one of many steps that must be taken in the coming months.
FSIN vice-chief Dutch Lerat said First Nations across Canada are uniting to assert their treaty and inherent rights to protect the environment.
Lerat said governments and corporations should remember that most recent court rulings have deemed their consultation with First Nations to be insufficient.
Delegates at the meeting discussed three harshly-worded submissions by the FSIN to federal environmental committees. It states recent changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act have been “disastrous” for First Nations and changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act have proven “devastating.”
On Tuesday, the federal government approved Enbridge’s $7.5-billion pipeline project, which runs from Hardisty, Alta., through Saskatchewan, ending at Superior, Wis.
Many First Nations groups and communities have expressed concerns about the massive project. On Wednesday, the FSIN said as the project goes ahead, First Nations people will play an important role.
It noted that one of the conditions the National Energy Board included in its April 25 report was that Enbridge must develop a plan for First Nations to participate in monitoring the construction of the project.
Cameron said it’s crucial stringent protections for the environment are put in place to protect First Nations communities.
“As the original stewards of the land, First Nations will be a part of all resource development initiatives so our grassroots people, leaders, youth and future generations can benefit,” Cameron said.
“It is in the best interest of us all to learn from the Standing Rock experience and find solutions through consultation and accommodation.”
Thirteen Indigenous groups from Saskatchewan participated in the National Energy Board review of the project.