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Indigenous Peoples Don't Consent To Pipelines. It's Time We Listened

The tribes and nations that signed a historic accord recently now join over 150 nations and tribes that have endorsed the treaty.

08/09/2017 13:38 EDT | Updated 08/09/2017 13:39 EDT

Recently, representatives from the Omaha Tribe, Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, Nez Perce, Choctaw Nation, Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, Ponka Tribe of Oklahoma signed the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion.

Greenpeace Canada

The Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion is an "expression of Indigenous Law prohibiting the pipelines/trains/tankers that will feed the expansion of the Alberta Tar Sands" through the territorial lands and waters of the signatories.

The tribes and nations that signed the historic accord recently now join over 150 nations and tribes that have endorsed the treaty.

They stand together in a fierce wall of opposition.

"Along with our Indigenous allies all along the KXL route like the Oceti Sakowin (Great Sioux Nation) and all over Turtle Island (North America), we recognize the grave dangers in allowing this 'Black Snake' to enter our homelands," said Chairman Larry Wright Jr. of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska. "As the State of Nebraska stands poised to make a potentially life-altering decision about permitting this poisonous bitumen to be inflicted on its population, we stand poised to protect all life now and in the future."

The treaty is an assertion of Indigenous law and a clear statement that tar sands pipelines (Keystone XL, Line 3, Trans Mountain, and Energy East) do not have the consent of all the nations and tribes whose lands and waters they seek to cross.

Bloomberg via Getty Images
Handmade anti-pipeline signs are seen on the side of a road in the First Nations village of Old Massett, B.C., on Aug. 25, 2016.

One of the primary rights enshrined in the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) — which the prime minister of Canada, premier of Alberta and premier of British Columbia all claim to support and want implemented into law — is the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).

Taken on its own, the term consent is a pretty straightforward one. Google dictionary defines consent as both a noun and a verb:

noun 1. permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.

"No change may be made without the consent of all the partners."

verb 1. give permission for something to happen.

"He consented to a search by a detective."

Reading these everyday definitions, it becomes clear at very basic level that none of the four proposed tar sands pipelines (KXL, Trans Mountain, Line 3 or Energy East) have the consent of all the nations and tribes that any of pipelines would pass through.

Governments and companies have a history of making decisions that impact Indigenous communities without their permission.

But, it's also important to take the other parts of FPIC into considerations.

For consent to be "free" it must be given without pressure, coercion or fear or repercussions. For consent to be "prior" it must be given prior to resource development and official approval of such development. For consent to be "informed" communities must be given all information needed to make a decision that is in their best interests; this includes not only logistical and financial information, but information on the environmental and social considerations of a project in an accessible and digestible format and language.

Paying lip service to UNDRIP will only get us so far. Any leader who supports the adoption of UNDRIP from international to national law must support FPIC. Any leader that wishes to uphold their commitments to Indigenous peoples and UNDRIP therefore cannot support any of the four tar sands pipelines that violate this foundational right to consent or the tenets of free, prior and informed consent.

Treaty Alliance Against Tarsands Expansion

It may not be a popular opinion for those seeking to win the influence of the oil industry or votes among its workers, but it's a necessary step in the path to reconciliation.

From colonization, to residential schools, to pipeline approvals, governments and companies have a history of making decisions that impact Indigenous communities without their permission. This practice needs to end before true healing can begin. Governments can't build the trust and relationships essential to reconciliation until they begin to truly respect the voices and rights of Indigenous Peoples, and start living up to the commitments they have already made to the First Peoples of these lands.

Over 150 nations and tribes have made it clear that they do not consent to tar sands pipelines.

It's time we listened.

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