OPEN LETTER: Union of BC Indian Chiefs' Opposition to Bill C-38

June 12, 2012
Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister, Canada
Langevin Block 80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A3
Via facsimile: 613- 941-6900

Honourable Joe Oliver
Minister, Natural Resources Canada
580 Booth Street, 21st Floor, Room C7-1
Ottawa, ON, K1A 0E4
Via facsimile: 613-996-4516

Honourable Keith Ashfield
Minister, Fisheries and Oceans
200 Kent Street
Ottawa, ON, K1A 0E6
Via facsimile: 613-990-1866

OPEN LETTER: Union of BC Indian Chiefs' Opposition to Bill C-38

Dear Prime Minister Harper and Honourable Ministers,

We write to urgently convey the collective and vehement opposition of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) to Bill C-38, Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act. Enclosed, please find a copy of Resolution 2012-21 "Opposition to Bill C-38, Federal Omnibus Budget Bill", which was carried unanimously by the UBCIC Chiefs Council on May 31, 2012. UBCIC represents approximately half of the First Nations in British Columbia.

We are aware that the Federal Government is actively rushing Bill C-38 through parliament, despite the expansive and atypical content for a budget bill, and that it has reached its final stages of the House of Commons. Further, we understand that the Conservatives are currently working to shut down debate on this omnibus budget bill, despite the brief time it has been scrutinized. We are extremely and gravely concerned with the content of Bill C-38 and its massive implications, including infringement on our Aboriginal Title, Rights, and Treaty Rights and weakened protections for our precious environment to the benefit of third party interests. We are also highly concerned with your government's blatant abuse of democratic process to serve its own needs, and fully object to the harshly forced imposition of your government's agenda, despite widespread concerns from a huge variety of interests. As communicated previously, we completely object to your government's questionable and underhanded tactics of including major changes to the environmental assessment process within an omnibus bill that addresses numerous issues and is being put through an expedited process that does not allow for the standard debate and checks and balances that such significant and substantive changes deserve and require.

As you well know, First Nations have legal and constitutionally protected rights and responsibilities to protect our traditional territories and all that this encompasses. We also draw your attention to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, endorsed by Canada in 2010, which sets out in Article 19 that "States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them." The Declaration also sets out the rights of Indigenous peoples with respect to their traditionally owned, occupied, or otherwise acquired lands, territories and resources, as well as their rights to the conservation and protection of the environment. Based on domestic law and international doctrine, it is imperative that fundamental changes to the environmental assessment process and other environmental protection laws include meaningful consultation with First Nations. Once again, we remind you that your government cannot legislate itself out of its duties to consult and accommodate Aboriginal Title, Rights and Treaty Rights where there is potential for infringement.

By Resolution 2012-21, the UBCIC Chiefs Council strongly opposes the omnibus Bill C-38, including its erosion of environmental protections to serve the interests of industry while ignoring Aboriginal Title, Rights, and Treaty Rights, and the unilateral imposition of the proposed Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012. The UBCIC Chiefs Council calls on the Federal Government to immediately halt and abandon Bill C-38, and demands that the Federal Government work to separate the changes proposed in Bill C-38 by issue (e.g. 2012 Budget, Fisheries Act changes, Canadian Environmental Assessment Act changes, etc.) and then engage in appropriate and meaningful consultation with First Nations.

We advise you that we will continue working with like-minded organizations to strongly oppose Bill C-38. We implore you to stop Bill C-38 from proceeding.

On behalf of the UNION OF BC INDIAN CHIEFS

[original signed]

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
President

Chief Robert Chamberlin
Vice-President

Chief Marilyn Baptiste
Secretary-Treasurer

CC: Members of Parliament, Canada
Premier Christy Clark
National Chief Atleo, AFN
First Nations Summit
BC Assembly of First Nations
First Nations Energy and Mining Council
First Nations Fisheries Council
First Nations in BC
West Coast Environmental Law
Canada Parks and Wilderness
David Suzuki Foundation
Ecojustice
Environmental Defence
Équiterre
Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment
Greenpeace
Nature Canada
The Pembina Institute
Sierra Club Canada
World Wildlife Fund

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Full pdf copy of letter and enclosures:
http://www.ubcic.bc.ca/files/PDF/2012June12_UBCICtoCanada_OppositionC-38.pdf

UBCIC is a NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.