Mining industry dialogue puts the spotlight on Indigenous rights
On April 13, KAIROS facilitated an ecumenical dialogue in Toronto with the Mining Association of Canada and several of its member companies. Given our ongoing work on reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, KAIROS used the opportunity to discuss Indigenous rights, and more specifically the requirement to obtain the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) from Indigenous peoples before developing mining projects. FPIC is a standard enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007). While the Canadian mining industry association does not appear to have taken a formal policy position on FPIC, it is slowly gaining acceptance by the global mining industry body, the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM).
Three panelists with different perspectives on FPIC opened the event: Will David of the Assembly of First Nations, Kevin O’Callaghan of the corporate law firm Fasken Martineau, and John Dillon of KAIROS. Participants then broke into small groups to share their direct experiences with FPIC and Indigenous peoples’ right in relation to resource extraction projects. Some of the Indigenous participants spoke about struggles to have these rights respected in Canada, particularly in the wake of weakened environmental assessment laws and the removal of other environmental protections under the federal government’s omnibus bills (Bills C-38 and C-45) in 2012. By contrast, the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in the Tsilhqot’in case in 2014 was seen by both industry representatives and church people as a “game changer” in the ongoing discussion around Indigenous rights and self-determination in Canada.
Later in the day, there was a discussion about two high-level meetings involving church leaders and global mining CEOs that took place in Rome in 2013 and London in 2014. While the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England have not issued formal reports following either of these Days of Reflection, several of the companies involved have teamed up with the University of Exeter in the U.K. to launch an initiative called “Mining in Partnership: An Empowerment Agenda.” The initiative calls for greater collaboration between churches and mining companies.It has been harshly condemned by over 70 Latin American religious organizations in a public statement entitled: “The Church should not allow itself to be bought.” The World Council of Churches is supporting this critical statement from Latin America and has encouraged KAIROS to circulate it widely among our Canadian networks and global partners.
KAIROS continues to promote respect for FPIC and Indigenous rights more generally with the Canadian mining industry, both at home and in their international operations. KAIROS is producing an educational video on FPIC for a general audience that will be released in late 2015.
On May 19-20, KAIROS is co-organizing a free symposium at the University of Ottawa to deepen understanding of FPIC. Panels will explore the legal status of FPIC in international and Canadian law; Indigenous customary law and protocols to advance FPIC; challenges and opportunities for corporations and investors; and implementing the FPIC standards in practice. Ian Thomson of KAIROS will be speaking on the panel about corporations and respect for FPIC. The event will be webcast live and can be watched from anywhere in Canada. For more information and to sign up for the webcast, visit: www.fpicforum.ca
For more information, contact Ian Thomson, Resources and Rights Partnerships Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org, 613-235-9956 ext. 222