It is my pleasure to contribute in the feature on mining. I take this opportunity to discuss the bill that I have introduced, Bill C-326 an Act to amend the Territorial Lands Act. I introduced the bill at the House of Commons in March 2023.
The bill seeks to amend section 12 of the act so that it would now read (bolded words are what would be added):
The Governor in Council may make regulations for the acquisition of mining rights in, under or on territorial lands and the payment of royalties in respect of the acquisition, but such regulations shall
a) Provide that any such acquisition requires the free, prior and informed consent of Inuit and any other Indigenous peoples who would be directly affected by it; and
b) Provide for the protection of and compensation to the holders of surface rights.
Canada is founded on Indigenous peoples’ lands. Given this fact, federal, provincial and territorial legislative, policy, program and service delivery must respect Indigenous Peoples’ inherent rights, especially when it comes to lands, wildlife management and addressing social issues.
This bill stems from my work before I became the Member of Parliament for Nunavut, a role I am privileged to undertake. I was honoured to work with hunters and trappers’ organizations and other rightsholders and stakeholders while the Nunavut Impact Review Board was reviewing the Phase 2 application submitted by Baffinland Iron Ore Mines. My passion to ensure the protection of the environment came directly from Inuit that I worked with. The important values of being guided by the environment and, in turn, protecting it is an important relationship for Inuit.
The continued impacts of colonial laws and policies continue to have a detrimental impact on the well-being of Inuit and Nunavummiut. While these impacts remain, Inuit and Indigenous communities are revitalizing their voices. Indigenous communities are demanding changes and demanding to be part of the decision-making. For too long, governments have taken and ignored those voices. Communities have called on the government and industry to respect and uphold rights to their lands.
The expectation that the mining sector should generate employment because of federal and territorial failures is a dangerous assumption. This assumption has driven the conversation about economic development without regard for Canada’s treatments towards Indigenous peoples.
My bill provides a pathway for immediate action to advance the commitments made in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act to take all measures necessary to ensure that the laws of Canada are consistent with the declaration.
My bill generates a pathway to ensure that Inuit and Indigenous peoples provide free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) at the acquisition stages. While the duty to consult remains an important legal obligation, ensuring FPIC must become the predecessor in this continuum.
Some communities may wish for their lands to be developed. Other communities may prefer to protect their lands from development. Regardless, the government must actively seek their consent before any rights to explore and mine are given. This approach will go a long way provide certainty to those seeking to invest in Nunavut. In Canada, actively obtaining freely given consent from Indigenous peoples is the law, and the Territorial Lands Act must be brought up to date.
—Lori Idout is the member of Parliament for Nunavut.
For more stories from Nunavut Mining, click on this link: https://www.nunavutnews.com/nunavut-news/mining-2023/