Press Release ...
HONOR THE WATER, RESPECT THE WATER, BE THANKFUL FOR THE WATER, PROTECT THE WATER
A CALL TO ACTION
INDIGENOUS WORLD WATER DAY MARCH 22, 2007
INDIGENOUS BROTHERS AND SISTERS STRUGGLING TO DEFEND THE ANCESTRAL LANDS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
Free Trade Agreements and neo-liberalism have brought about a rapid expansion in economic globalisation in recent decades. We now see how poor and indebted countries look to the exploitation of natural resources as the solution to their economic problems. The wealthy and industrialized nations continue this resource exploitation within their own countries as well as continuing the resource incursions into other people’s lands in other parts of the world. In many cases, these resources are found on the ancestral lands of Indigenous Peoples. Mining, oil, gas, corporation agriculture, and water extraction, water privatisation and pollution are at the heart of many resource conflicts on and around Indigenous Lands throughout this Western Hemisphere. In the past, we have been marginalized in the decision-making processes that end up harming our People and the land we care for.
WE ARE NOT INVISIBLE
Our Indigenous Peoples and communities have known and demonstrated that we have the knowledge and capacity to take care of the Earth and various cultural and natural resources that we have been given. Governments and corporations have sought our Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge that may be beneficial to their interests. When Indigenous and corporate interests collide, governments politically, socially, and economically isolate us into geo-political paradigms where we are forced to make decisions about the sanctioning exploitation of mineral and fossil fuel resources. In other situations, water and air pollution come from sources outside of our territories. This exploitation, privatisation and contamination upset the balance of cultural resources and sacred sites. As Indigenous Peoples and communities come to better understand the risks associated to resource exploitation, there is an increasing amount of resistance to project proposals and/or a growing demand for remediation of existing problems. This has had the effect of forcing governments and corporations to respond to our concerns.
WE HAVE THE POWER TO BRING CHANGE
INDIGENOUS WORLD WATER DAY is March 22. This is an invitation to your community to participate in an international event that will raise the Indigenous Voice in defence of Sacred Water. It consists of organizing in each community a public event according to your traditions and according to the unique forms of your people. We must illustrate to the national and international audience, and the media, that Indigenous Peoples are united to defend water in all places where it is threatened. We must demand clean up where it is polluted. We must promote laws that recognize the sacredness of water and inherent customary rights to water, by Indigenous Peoples. As these events take place in all regions of the Americas, we will remind the world of the role and responsibilities as Guardians and Protectors of Water that we, as the Original Peoples have played since the beginning of time. The world is out of balance; this is the moment to act on behalf of our Mother Earth, and the water that sustains all life.
It is important to invite the press to witness your event. We must speak individually and collectively to protect the water. Together let’s make an Indigenous Movement to protect water by forming a human chain holding containers of water or other types of ceremonies and celebrations throughout the Americas on Indigenous World Water Day.
NO MORE MINE WASTE, AGRICULTURAL WASTE, HUMAN WASTE, OR INDUSTRIAL WASTE IN OUR WATER
The Indigenous Environmental Network (www.ienearth.org), along with many elders and others who care about the legacy we leave for future generations bring this invitation to you. To add your voice to an international press release or more information about the event, and to inform us about the event to be held in your community, please communicate with:
Remarks for Patrick Borbey Assistant Deputy Minister, Northern Affairs Program Indian and Northern Affairs Canada at the Northern Development Ministers Forum
February 8, 2007
It’s a pleasure to address this Forum on behalf of Minister Prentice. The Minister regrets that he could not be here in person due to his Parliamentary schedule. He is deeply interested in his northern mandate and looks forward to following up on the results of these discussions.
I want to thank Minister Jim Kenyon and the Government of Yukon for hosting this year’s event. This Forum is a valuable opportunity to build on our common strengths, coordinate our actions and lay the groundwork for a shared prosperity that benefits Northerners and all Canadians. You have developed a progressive agenda and the Knowledge North initiative is an exciting concept that will help us find practical ways to sustain progress.
The Minister is committed to this goal and to working with partners, like you, to accelerate progress. And he appreciates that his mandate for the North and Aboriginal peoples provides a unique perspective on the economic potential of this vast area. As Prime Minister Harper said during a tour of the territories last summer, “…we see Canada’s North, not as it is, but rather as it could be – a North that is stronger, more prosperous and liberated from the paternalistic policies of the past.”
This government’s approach to the development of Northern resources focuses on collaboration, efficient and effective regulation and feasibility. In essence, the Government of Canada wants to ensure that the right conditions are in place to encourage partners and communities to pursue projects that make economic sense, satisfy all regulatory and environmental requirements and generate benefits for Northerners and Canadians generally.
This approach is based on the fact that projects meeting these criteria will help to diversify the northern economy, strengthen communities and cultures and build the North’s capacity to realize future ventures. We know that the opportunities are happening now. Major resource-development opportunities promise significant economic benefits, but we must be careful to manage the potential impacts on the fragile environment and on northern communities and lifestyles.
We are keenly aware that the impacts of climate change are already apparent. We must find ways to improve energy efficiency and adapt to the impacts we cannot avoid. The Government of Canada has announced its plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality. This plan focuses on achieving sustained reductions in emissions in Canada and transforming our economy for the long-term.
Managing the impacts of development on the environment is a priority when one considers the effects of diamond mines in the Northwest Territories, for instance.
From an economic point of view, thanks to impact-and-benefit agreements involving Diavik, BHP Billiton and local Dene communities, Canada has become the third-largest producer of raw diamonds in the world. These agreements ensure that Aboriginal peoples have access to a wealth of employment, training and contracting opportunities.
From an environmental point of view, development of the Diavik mine, for instance, inspired an award-winning feat of engineering: the construction of a dike more than three kilometres long. The dike facilitates mining and minimizes environmental damage. This type of expertise will benefit future projects that involve sensitive ecosystems.
Other long-term benefits include the experience and expertise acquired by local entrepreneurs, contractors and skilled labourers. All can be applied to future projects. Resource-development projects also stimulate other activities and help to diversify local economies. Some Aboriginal groups, such as the Tlicho, have chosen to invest mining revenues in scholarship programs and cultural activities.
The North has a higher profile today than it has had for many years. Investors from around the world are interested. Some are actively engaged in the regions. Others are watching developments.
In order to stimulate economic growth in the North, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada has developed a set of economic development programs collectively termed the Strategic Investments in Northern Economic Development initiative. The investments made under this initiative will help to generate important economic opportunities for Northerners, their businesses and their communities.
It’s important that we send the right signals that the North is a vibrant region of enormous potential, that change is happening, and that we’re creating the conditions for economic success. The Government is working with all stakeholders in northern resource development to ensure that Aboriginal people are full partners and equal beneficiaries in the future of the new North.
Northern governments are poised to chart their own course. And most important, we recognize that northerners themselves are taking the lead and are exploring these opportunities.
For example, the Ekati mine currently employs 700 full time workers of whom almost 70 per cent are Northerners — 33 per cent are Aboriginal. The company also purchases over $350 million worth of goods and services each year. Eighty per cent of these purchases are made in the North.
There is a real sense of momentum as other projects become a reality — from the Snap Lake Diamond Project in the NWT to the recently opened Jericho Diamond Mine, Nunavut's first diamond mine.
In a few months’ time, the world will embark on one of the largest cooperative projects in recent history: International Polar Year. More than 60 countries will participate and this will improve our understanding of the physical and social realities of the earth’s polar regions.
Canada will be playing a significant global leadership role in International Polar Year, and it is presently estimated that 60 per cent of the northern polar component will include Canadian involvement or activity within Canada’s borders.
International Polar Year has great potential to stimulate prosperity in Northern communities. Not only will northern research benefit all Northerners by increasing understanding, but research projects and their associated support activities will bring with them new economic, skills development and employment opportunities. And the traditional knowledge that will be shared will support the Government of Canada’s approach to addressing important environmental challenges. I’m also pleased to say that Canada’s International Polar Year projects will focus on the understanding the impacts of climate change, and on the health and well-being of Northerners.
We believe one of the most important contributions we can make is to streamline the process for new projects through improvements to the regulatory process. In the North, the regulatory system was originally designed in the context of settling Aboriginal land claims and, although it has been highly successful in ensuring active Aboriginal participation in decisions taken on land and water management, it has also been criticized for being overly complex, inefficient and time-consuming. Consequently, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada is looking into ways and means to upgrade the regulatory environment.
An improved regulatory system would increase investor confidence, promote economic prosperity and ensure that the system is at peak efficiency when devolution occurs.
By streamlining the process for new projects, we also help to set the stage for the devolution of land and resource management responsibilities to territorial governments.
The government has consistently said that devolution and resource revenue-sharing are two sides of the same coin. Ottawa is working to give the territories more responsibilities and more control over their destinies. And the territories will obviously need fiscal and jurisdictional balance to meet their new obligations.
Of course, there is much more to the North than its natural resources. The North’s greatest resource is its people. You’ve recognized that within this Forum. Your work is focused on building capacity so that every northerner can benefit from economic development.
Economically viable communities are a valuable source of the trained human resources needed to realize the North’s full potential. Given that Aboriginal people represent a significant portion of this population in the northern regions of provinces and territories, we must recognize that work is needed in order to maximize their potential. And so the federal government believes that the progress we make in living standards for Aboriginal people will make important contributions to long-term prosperity in the North.
To address many of the challenges that face Aboriginal peoples, the Minister has outlined an approach that focuses on moving Aboriginal people from dependency to self-reliance through targeted effort in four areas.
First, it is important to empower individuals to take greater control and responsibility of their lives. This is why the federal the federal government has taken immediate action on quality-of-life issues such as drinking water, education, housing, and providing better supports for Aboriginal women, children and families.
In Budget 2006, the government committed $300 million to affordable housing in the North, most of which will benefit Aboriginal people. An additional $300 million was provided to address the immediate pressures in off-reserve Aboriginal housing.
Action has also been taken to improve the quality of life of Aboriginal women and children. In September, the government launched consultations across the country on the issue of matrimonial real property. And in December, the government tabled legislation to repeal section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act which prevents Aboriginal people living or working on reserve from having full access to human rights protection. In addition, the federal government recently announced a one-time investment of $6 million in 2006-2007 to address the immediate needs of existing First Nations shelters and to help First Nations communities improve family violence prevention programs and services.
Next, the government is accelerating its efforts to deal with land claims.
Each settlement clears a path to stronger governance and to new economic and social opportunities.
For example, the Government recently signed the Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement. This is an historic agreement that brought closure to the commitments made to the Nunavik Inuit following the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement in 1975. This agreement will lead to greater stability, and in turn, to enhanced economic and employment opportunities in the area.
Settlements help to provide the resources and certainty that stimulates investment. Land claim settlements and self-government agreements have paved the way for major resource projects. And all northerners are sharing in the benefits.
The promotion of job training, skills and entrepreneurship is also essential. This is why the Government invests approximately $600 million annually in Aboriginal economic development programs delivered through eleven departments and agencies.
And finally, the groundwork is being laid for responsible self-government by moving towards modern and accountable governance structures.
To become more self-sufficient, First Nations governments must be more accountable to their constituents. Today, not all First Nations have the governance structures and the capacity to deliver this level of accountability and transparency. However, many do. And there is a commitment to work together to ensure that everyone reaches that same level.
To achieve its goals, the government is taking the necessary steps that will lead to real, sustainable progress. By establishing regional and project-specific agreements, we can address a whole range of issues.
For example, the government has taken decisive action to address public concerns over potential negative impacts that the Mackenzie Gas Project could have on Northern communities.
To assist in community development for those Northerners who may be affected by the planning, construction and operation of the Mackenzie Gas Project, Budget 2006 announced $500 million for the Mackenzie Gas Project Impacts Fund, contingent on the project proceeding. Work is now under way to transform the enabling legislation into a system of governance that will ensure that the Fund is managed effectively. Furthermore, all parties have recognized that we must work in good faith in order to resolve outstanding issues, including completion of access and benefits agreements.
Another good example is the recent tripartite agreement among the federal government, British Columbia and the BC First Nations Education Steering Committee.
This historic agreement will enable First Nations to assume meaningful control over on-reserve elementary and secondary schools in areas such as curriculum, educational standards and teacher certification. What is especially exciting about this tripartite agreement is that it offers a model that can be adapted for use in other regions in this country.
The North represents tremendous potential and will play an important role in Canada’s future prosperity both domestically and internationally. Success will depend on our collective ability to balance the economy and the environment, strengthen governance, improve socio-economic conditions and promote international cooperation on key issues. These and other measures will serve to strengthen Arctic sovereignty.
As part of our commitment to making progress and to working collaboratively with you, I am pleased to say, on behalf of the Government of Canada, that we look forward to hosting the National Development Ministers Forum in Ottawa later this year. As I have said, we believe that this Forum is a valuable opportunity and we look forward to continuing our discussions with you in Ottawa.