By Owen Schalk, Canadian Dimension
Any changes that come out of COP15 are only meaningful if they respect Indigenous rights everywhere in Canada
The United Nations Biodiversity Conference, also known as COP15, opened on December 7 in Montréal. With representatives from nearly 200 countries in attendance, the conference deals with how member countries can move toward sustainable development in accordance with the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), first signed by 150 countries at the Rio Earth Summit of 1992. The CBD’s main objectives are “the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of the components of biological diversity, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.”
At COP15’s opening ceremonies, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lavished praise on Canada’s “openness and diversity” and the natural beauty of Canadian landscapes, stating, “When people think of Canada around the world, they think of our landscapes and the richness and wealth of our nature.”
However, he stopped partway through his remarks when a group of Indigenous land defenders gathered in the middle of the room, unfurling a banner that read “Indigenous genocide = Ecocide, To save biodiversity stop invading our lands.” They drummed and chanted “Canada is on Native land” and “Trudeau is a colonizer” until security led them out of the room.
Trudeau used the opportunity to praise Canada once again. “As you can also see,” he said, “Canada is a place of free expression, where individuals and communities are free to express themselves openly, and strongly, and we thank them for sharing their perspectives.”
The elephant in the room at COP15 is that Canada, while claiming to be a global champion in environmental protection, is proportionally more environmentally destructive than other G7 countries. This destruction is inextricably entwined with the colonial processes of dispossession by which Indigenous peoples are surveilled, criminalized, and removed from their lands to make way for extractive industry such as mining and fossil fuel production.
Earlier this month, a study by the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project (JCAP) matched the findings of the UN regarding the criminalization of land defenders in Canada. The study, entitled The Two Faces of Canadian Diplomacy: Undermining Human Rights and Environment Defenders to Support Canadian Mining, found that the Canadian government’s disregard for the crimes of extractive industry has led to threats against local communities, the criminalization of people opposed to the projects, attacks, arrests, and killings. Report co-author Charis Kamphuis stated:
Human rights and environment defenders play a critical role around the world protecting biodiversity and seeking solutions to the global ecological crisis… Yet there is overwhelming evidence that Canadian officials systematically ignore Canada’s own policies when it comes to corporate accountability and the protection of defenders. These policies are effectively rendered meaningless.
Following the publication of the study, Jamie Kneen of MiningWatch Canada related its findings to the ongoing COP15 summit:
We’re already seeing Canadian officials make important commitments regarding biodiversity protection during COP15. But this report makes clear that Canada does not follow its own policies when it comes to supporting the very people that dedicate their lives to protecting the environment at great personal risk.
Now, with talk of a sustainable energy transition popular amongst Western states, the federal and provincial governments are developing “critical minerals strategies” which will see increased mineral extraction in the coming years. The most recent critical minerals strategy paper, released in the midst of COP15, highlights the importance of mineral extraction and the expanded role that the Canadian state will play in supporting the domestic mining industry.
MiningWatch offers the following summation of the new strategy paper:
Canada’s Critical Minerals Strategy places a welcome emphasis on value-added manufacturing, high standards for environmental and human rights protection, Indigenous rights, and circular economy. However, those principles are not backed with proposals for meaningful implementation, and they are rendered almost meaningless by the strategy’s central thrust—deepened and accelerated extraction of raw materials for global markets. There is no recognition of the material implications of the Paris commitments to address the climate crisis, much less of already-strained planetary limits, beyond laudable but merely conceptual mentions of recycling and circular economy.
Since its inception, the Canadian state has supported extractive industry domestically and internationally—in fact, many would argue that these were the interests that motivated the creation of Canada as a nation in the first place. Now, in the era of “renewable energy,” the state’s industry support is being rebranded as “sustainable” with little in the way of substantive adaptation to the myriad ecological crises facing humanity.
Read the full article here.