CALGARY, ALTA. – The United Nations is taking heat after its Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination recommended work stop on major Canadian resource projects.
The committee is a body of 18 independent experts that monitors commitments by participating countries to end racial discrimination.
The committee is calling for Canada to stop work on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, Site C dam and Coastal GasLink pipeline. In a written directive, the experts stated that the projects have moved forward without the free, prior and informed consent of impacted Indigenous groups. They also cited incidents of Indigenous Peoples being removed from areas with force, intimidation and harassment.
The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA), which has long supported major energy and resource projects in B.C., dismissed the comments.
“They frankly don’t seem terribly interested in nuance or research or the dozens of First Nations who support these projects,” said Jordan Bateman, ICBA vice president of communications and marketing.
Bateman noted that the committee includes members like China and Russian who have been accused of severe acts of discrimination and violating human rights.
“It’s incredibly hypocritical for them to lecture any other nation about human rights and, frankly, it’s offensive,” said Bateman. “Who would take a lecture from China or Russia on ending racism? It’s frustrating for those of us who know the hard work companies and governments have done to get these projects approved and frustrating knowing the dozens of First Nations who do not just support these projects but are counting on the economic benefits for their communities.”
Bateman said the UN should shift its efforts elsewhere in the world with egregious racism issues.
“It is ham-fisted and embarrassing to see the UN act like this,” said Bateman. “I think that reports and complaints like this erode and seriousness attached to the committee.”
Alberta Minister of Energy Sonya Savage also fired back at the UN in a statement.
“With all the injustice in the world, it’s beyond rich that the unelected, unaccountable United Nations would seemingly single out Canada – one of the greatest champions of human rights, democracy and the rule of law,” said Savage. “We wish that the UN would pay as much attention to the majority of First Nation groups that support important projects such as Trans Mountain and Coastal GasLink.
She added that First Nations leaders increasingly recognize that responsible natural resource development can serve as a path from poverty to prosperity for their people. She accused the UN body of seemingly ignoring these voices.
“Canada’s duly elected representatives – not unaccountable international committees – are responsible for governing decisions in this country,” Savage said.