Industry group lobbies Ottawa for EDC insurance against First Nation rights consultations

(Globe and Mail, Toronto, 25 December 2018) Canada’s largest industry and trade association has asked the federal government to insure foreign investors against the risk their projects might be derailed by [mandatory] consultations with First Nations. The suggestion from Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, which represents 1,200 companies, was among the farthest-reaching in hundreds made to a once-a-decade federal review of the Export Development Act, which governs the activities of Canada’s export credit agency. Successive court decisions have affirmed the federal government’s duty to consult Indigenous peoples when its actions may adversely affect their rights, and accommodate them if necessary. This still-evolving body of law has imposed significant responsibilities on governments across Canada relating to Crown-sponsored mining, energy, infrastructure and other projects, as well as private-sector projects that require government regulatory approvals. Disputes over the adequacy of consultations can lead to litigation and projects can grind to a halt. “To a foreign investor who does not understand these complex consultative processes, and has no real way of participating in them, it presents a high risk that dissuades their investment in projects,” Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters wrote in its submission. “EDC, who could be better positioned to understand such situations, could provide assurances to the foreign investor through some sort of guarantee.”  Canada's Assembly of First Nations said in a statement. “If Export Development Canada considers providing guarantees and other assurances to foreign investors to secure investment in projects, Canadian taxpayers may be left on the hook for paying compensation for projects that do not proceed due to faulty consultation processes.” [ECA-Watch commentary: It would appear that Canadian business wants EDC, an official public corporation, to guarantee private foreign investors' profits from potential violations of First Nations' rights.]