Free, prior and informed consent integral to agreements

ANISHINABEK NATION HEAD OFFICE (August 11, 2021) – The Anishinabek Nation Grand Council is deeply concerned about the federal government announcement on July 28, 2021, regarding the rate mitigation deal between the federal government and Newfoundland and Labrador, which impacts the Innu Nation.

“The more we learn about this situation, the more disturbed we are by Canada’s actions,” states Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Reg Niganobe following a briefing with Innu Nation representatives. “The government’s attempt to use a backdoor mechanism to undermine benefits promised to the Innu in an Impact and Benefits Agreement (IBA) sets a dangerous precedent that is inconsistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and Canada’s stated commitment to reconciliation.”

The rate mitigation deal between the Prime Minister and Newfoundland and Labrador’s Premier protects Newfoundland ratepayers from electricity rate shock due to massive cost overruns on the Muskrat Falls project.  However, in doing so, the Innu Nation’s five per cent profits from the Muskrat Falls project contained in the IBA may be nonexistent due to inheriting millions of dollars of debt by bearing the burden of cost overruns, whereas the province will stand to receive $5.2 billion from Canada.  The Innu Nation was neither informed nor consulted in advance of this deal.

Of particular concern is the uncertainty that this decision creates for resource projects across the country. First Nations will remain unable to trust the Canadian government in discussions and commitments.

“First Nations only enter into IBAs as a way to avoid litigation and gain some equity or equality in projects which affect our people, land, or culture. Canada’s actions here cast further doubt on the Honour of the Crown or commitment to setting things right with First Nations,” states Grand Council Chief Niganobe. “If Canada is simply going to deliberately breach its fiduciary duties, honour of the Crown, and duty to consult and accommodate at its convenience, why would First Nations give their free, prior and informed consent through IBAs and other resource development agreements? Reconciliation is more than mere words. Reconciliation requires action in our Anishinabek worldview.”

The Anishinabek Nation calls on the Canadian government to immediately agree to Innu Nation’s reasonable requests regarding the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador rate mitigation deal to assure all First Nations in Canada that Canada is committed to reconciliation in both words and action. Canada’s actions and failure of its obligations towards the Innu people must be shared widely because it is important to the Innu people of Labrador and is also a matter of national importance.

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