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Indigenous leaders say pipeline ruling highlights Canada’s need for UNDRIP law

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A Federal Court of Appeal ruling on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion highlights the need for Canada to legally entrench the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), advocates say.

Regional Chief for British Columbia Terry Teegee was among those who voiced disappointment at the court decision, which found the Canadian government met its duty to consult First Nations on the pipeline project.

“Today we see another court decision that is another reminder that the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and free, prior and informed consent are the necessary way forward,” he said.

“Obviously, the process is still flawed. We can replace conflict and court cases with progress, prosperity and stability.”

The Assembly of First Nations also called for full implementation of UNDRIP legislation in Canada following the court decision.

“The Assembly of First Nations will continue to push to ensure all policies, legislation and practices are consistent with First Nations inherent and Treaty rights, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and for federal legislation to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” a statement read.

The Trudeau government has long promised to enshrine the UN declaration into Canadian law, but it remains controversial in Canada because of the stipulation of “free, prior and informed consent.”

Global News reached out the federal Ministry of Justice on whether there is a timeline for a bill to be introduced in the House of Commons but did not hear back by publication.

Tuesday’s unanimous court decision on the pipeline cleared a major legal hurdle for construction to continue on the expansion from Alberta’s oilsands to B.C.’s coast — a move long contested by several Indigenous communities in B.C. The Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Squamish Nation, Coldwater Indian Band and a coalition of small First Nations in the Fraser Valley were part of the legal challenge and argued that the government’s consultation with them was inadequate.

The communities say they oppose the expansion because of the risk of oil spills and increased emissions.

Lori Campbell, director of the Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre at St. Paul’s University College, told Global News that a key element of UNDRIP is to ensure Indigenous communities have “free, prior and informed consent” in matters that impact them — for example, pipeline projects that run through their territory.

“Free, prior and informed consent doesn’t mean that the pipeline can’t go ahead. It means that it can’t go ahead through that particular territory,” Campbell said.

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