(The IAP2 July Webinar)
This past May, Canada dropped its “objector” status to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. On July 12, IAP2 hosted a webinar featuring Bob Joseph, founder and CEO of Indigenous Corporate Training, and Anne Harding, Senior Aboriginal Stakeholder Relations Advisor for Suncor Energy.
“We’ll run town-hall sessions until people stop showing up.”
This is one example that Bob Joseph shared, told to him by a Squamish First Nation person. He suggests it’s a good way to address public consultations with Indigenous peoples.
Bob, the CEO of Indigenous Corporate Training, Inc., joined Anne Harding, Senior Stakeholder Relations Advisor for Aboriginal Communities at Suncor Energy, for the July webinar. The webinar looked at the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), and how those align with IAP2 principles.
Note the nuance. Legal precedents in Canada have established that the Crown carries a duty to consult with First Nations, but that’s not the same as “free, prior and informed consent”. What’s more, the Crown reserves the right to decide when there has been “enough” consultation, and that is also out of line with FPIC. Handing virtual veto power to First Nations is a sticking point for what Joseph refers to as the “Nation-States” like Canada.
Beyond that, Indigenous peoples’ political leaderships are gearing more towards collaborative consent, with a principle that the “50% + 1” paradigm may not be enough. Hence, the Squamish Nation’s goal in its P2 process: having pretty much everyone (at least 70%) supporting a decision, whatever it may be. Reaching the point where people stop showing up for town-hall meetings is a sure sign that people have the information they need to make a decision.
The main thing a P2 practitioner needs to do, Joseph says, is homework. Indigenous peoples in North America have largely had a system of government imposed on them by colonists, with elected chiefs and councils, rather than the system of hereditary chiefs, which had existed prior to “contact”. So when you’re going into a P2 process, you need to find out whom you should talk to and when in doubt talk to more people, not less. In Canada, a website called ATRIS (Aboriginal Treaty Rights Information System) can help you determine which First Nation actually has rights to a particular area and show you who the elected leadership is.
But don’t stop with the elected chief, Joseph says. The elected-council system has long been a sore point with supporters of the hereditary system, so focusing on the elected leadership may shut out many people who need to be consulted. What’s more, Joseph says, the elected chief or band council representative may be something of a “gatekeeper”, not wanting the hereditary leaders or other community representatives to be part of the process. Joseph has seen some really good agreements go south as a result of that “gatekeeper” attitude.
So you need to get out into the community: go to the potlatches, pow-wows and feasts, the same way you set up a booth at malls and public events in non-Indigenous communities. Ask people whom you should talk to, and aim for that collective decision: it has a greater chance of being the right decision and eliminates – or at least, significantly reduces – the potential for conflict between the traditional and elected leadership.
Bob Joseph also presents a list of do’s and don’t’s, which includes DO “Learn the pronunciation”: his own Nation is Gwawaenuk – “gwah-WAH-ay-nuk”; and DON’T name-drop, especially names of other Nations you may have dealt with: there may be a “past” between that Nation and the one you’re dealing with now, which could affect the level of trust you need to maintain in order for effective, meaningful P2.
IAP2 Members can check out the webinar in its entirety, and download Bob Joseph’s e-book, UNDRIP and FPIC, here.