Yinka Dene Alliance

Backgrounder: Yinka Dene UN Complaint on Enbridge

February 24, 2012

The Yinka Dene Alliance has filed a complaint and sent a representative to the United Nations in Geneva about the Harper government’s stated intention to push through the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines and tankers project, in violation of First Nations’ constitutionally-protected rights.

The complaint has been filed under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which Canada signed, that bans discrimination against Indigenous peoples. The Yinka Dene complaint sets out that the Harper government has singled out First Nations and plans to breach their rights in a discriminatory way, in violation of the Convention.

The complaint is filed with the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/

The complaint is filed under the Early Warning Measures and Urgent Procedures which allows complaints about a country’s proposed actions before they escalate into a violation of the. The U.N. Committee can open an investigation of the government’s plans and has the power to make a finding that Canada has violated or is likely to violate its legal obligations under the Convention.

Among the specific incidents forming the basis of the complaint are recent federal government statements. In a Vancouver speech last month, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver suggested that if First Nations do not agree to the Enbridge pipeline, the government would violate their constitutional rights. He stated that the government's next step, if an accommodation is not possible, will be to use the Supreme Court’s “justification” test for rights infringement (Vancouver Sun, January 24). Harper re-stated his vow to ensure the pipeline is built on his trip to China earlier this month (Vancouver Sun, February 10).

Nak'azdli First Nation representative Anne Sam travelled to Geneva to speak with the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and other officials in relation to the Enbridge complaint. Ms. Sam is also speaking to the Committee about a report filed by the First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining.