THE TASKFORCE ON THE CHURCHES AND CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY
129 St. Clair Avenue West
Toronto, Ontario M4V 1N5
(416) 923-1758 FAX: (416) 927-7554 WEB:tccr
THE ROYAL COMMISSION ON ABORIGINAL PEOPLES
SUBMISSION PRESENTED: Thursday, 3 June 1993
The Taskforce on the Churches and Corporate Responsibility is a national ecumenical coalition of the major Christian churches in Canada. Official representatives from the General Synod of the Anglican Church, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Presbyterian Church, the United Church, and several religious orders serve as links between the Taskforce and the decision making structures of the members. The Taskforce assists the members in implementing policies adopted by the churches in the areas of corporate social and environmental responsibility. The Taskforce has been involved with issues of corporate responsibility and Canada's aboriginal peoples for over a decade.
In the experience of the Taskforce, disputes involving aboriginal rights to land and resources have been aggravated by the issuance of licenses and permits to third parties by federal and provincial governments. In 1981 the Taskforce participated in a shareholders resolution regarding a molybdenum mine near Kitsault B.C., reopened by Amax of Canada Ltd. and located on unsurrendered Nisga'a land. The mine was allowed to dump mine tailings greatly exceeding existing regulations into Alice Arm, the fishery of the Nisga'a people. This mine was approved without notification of the Nisga'a by either Amax, the provincial or federal government. In 1982 the mine was closed by the company citing weak demand for molybdenum. Despite numerous requests, a public inquiry has never been held into either the operation of the mine or the marine disposal of mine tailings.
The Lubicon Lake First Nation in Alberta have been devastated culturally and economically by the granting of licenses on unsurrendered land. In the late 1970s licenses to drill for oil on Lubicon land were granted to Petro-Canada, Numac Oil & Gas Ltd., Norcen Energy Resources Ltd, and other companies. The Taskforce intervened to encourage the companies to refuse licenses which related to unsurrendered land. In 1989 Norcen ceased operations on the disputed land citing safety of its workers as its principle reason.
In 1988 the Alberta government granted timber rights on unsurrendered land to Daishowa Canada Co. Ltd. At present, the company is not logging in the area and has been the target of a costly boycott by the supporters of the Lubicon. The Taskforce continues to be involved in the extensive effort to encourage the company to cease all operations until there has been a just settlement to the Lubicon land rights.
In 1986 the Taskforce met with the management of Western Forest Products Ltd. concerning logging on the ancestral land of the Haida of Lyell Island in Haida Gwaii. This conflict included the Haida, Western Forest Products, the B.C. and the Federal governments. A national park was established in 1987 but the underlying issue of the Haida land rights remains unresolved to this day.
In 1988 the Taskforce initiated a dialogue with Fletcher Challenge Canada Ltd. over its proposed logging of the Stein Valley in B.C. The Lytton and Mt. Currie Bands disputed the B.C. government's right to the land, opposed logging and the granting of logging rights to Fletcher Challenge Canada. The company announced a 12 month moratorium on logging in the Stein Valley in 1989. Following the expiration of the moratorium the company has stated it has no plans to log the Stein Valley. The question of aboriginal land rights in the valley have yet to be resolved.
The Taskforce was involved in the late 1980s in discussions with Canadian Pacific Forest Products Ltd. over logging rights granted by the government of Quebec on land where title is disputed by the government of Quebec and the Algonquins of Barriere Lake. The Taskforce renewed this dialogue in 1993 following the unilateral cancelation of the Trilateral Agreement between the Algonquins, Quebec and Canada by the government of Quebec.
Corporations are impatient with political uncertainty. They feel caught in the middle. They are not usually prepared to deal with an aboriginal community in crisis. They find it frustrating when plans have been made for projects which are in question because of inaction at a political level in finding resolutions to disputes over aboriginal land rights.
The Taskforce holds that any decision to issue licenses and permits by governments to third parties on unsurrendered land should not be permitted without the full support of the aboriginal community because:
It depletes a resource which should accrue to aboriginal peoples. The issue of land rights should be settled before resources are extracted.
It interferes with their way of life by clearing, drilling or road building. The way of life of aboriginal communities is fundamentally tied to the land. Construction and resource extraction activities do not merely inconvenience, but subvert and undermine aboriginal culture and spirituality.
It prejudices future settlement of aboriginal land rights issues by bringing a third party into the question. A corporation having entered such an agreement will naturally resist the recognition of aboriginal land rights.
It complicates the operations of corporations who find themselves in this awkward third party position. Corporations may find themselves in confrontations with aboriginal communities. In addition employees of the corporations can perceive their jobs as threatened by aboriginal land rights.
In cases where, with the full support of the aboriginal community, permits are granted to third parties to utilize resources on aboriginal land or where land rights are under dispute, the Federal government through the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs should be diligent in insuring that benefits due to aboriginal communities are paid to them.
In light of these reasons and drawing on this experience, the Taskforce recommends that the following be adopted by the Royal Commission and be recommended to government:
All governments in Canada and any agent or crown corporation of these governments should not be allowed to grant drilling rights, mineral rights, timber cutting permits or other licences and permits on unsurrendered land without the support of the aboriginal community.