July 27, 2017 – Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami commends Jerry Natanine and the community of Clyde River, Nunavut, following a historic decision in the Supreme Court yesterday that overturned plans for seismic testing for oil near the community using controversial soundwave technology. Many Inuit in Clyde River vigorously opposed the project because of the technology’s potentially harmful impacts on the marine mammals they harvest to feed their families.
The unanimous decision handed down by the Supreme Court focused on the National Energy Board’s flawed process for reconciling Inuit rights with Crown conduct. The Court clarified that the Honour of the Crown requires that the duty to consult and accommodate be applied when the Crown contemplates action, including approving permits for industry, which might impact the rights of Inuit. This ruling is consistent with the international standard of free, prior and informed consent and obligates the Crown to ensure that the process of consultation and accommodation is one which is informed – in this case by scientific evidence and traditional knowledge, as well as by the rights and interests of Inuit.
The ruling brings into national focus the need for consistent application by the courts and regulatory bodies of contemporary human rights standards, including the right of Indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent. The Court held that the Crown simply cannot secure the free, prior and informed consent of Inuit, nor can it even consult with Inuit, if Inuit are not informed about the nature or potential impacts of a project. This decision also highlights the importance of considering international human rights standards, including the right to free, prior and informed consent as affirmed by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as the federal government modernizes the National Energy Board, and beyond.
“Inuit commend Jerry Natanine and the community of Clyde River for their landmark victory yesterday,” said Natan Obed, President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. “The decision also highlights gaps in the federal government’s application of international human rights standards, including the right to free, prior and informed consent as affirmed by the UN Declaration. Canada can avoid protracted litigation of this nature in the future through full implementation of the UN Declaration, in partnership with indigenous peoples.”