Pipeline Observer

Pandering to "Traditional Indigenous Knowledge" no Substitute for Property Rights

Bill C-69 is political virtue signaling that will sandbag energy development in Canada...

Published in April, 2018

It is seldom our first instinct to sympathize with senior government bureaucrats.  But we find it hard to disagree with the point of view expressed by this Quebec deputy minister about "traditional Indigenous knowledge."

Bill C-69 will ensure traditional Indigenous knowledge becomes a pillar in the environmental decision-making process when it comes to federal approval of energy transport projects.

Traditional Indigenous knowledge, however it is to be defined, will be treated as equal to science when assessing the environmental impacts of energy development.

Traditional knowledge of all kinds, whether Indigenous or derived from centuries of farming and ranching experience, has been ignored because the people possessing it have always lacked the property rights to ensure it was respected.

But whether traditional Indigenous knowledge is a valid consideration when assessing a pipeline or powerline project is beside the point.

When people have property rights, they can base their decisions to support or oppose a project on any criteria they like.  

But property rights are not recognized or respected in Canada.  And the current federal government's rush to inject traditional Indigenous knowledge into energy project approvals is about political pandering, not rights.

It is no different than if non-Indigenous farmers and ranchers were a politically valued ethno cultural group and Ottawa decided to elevate the Farmer's Almanac to evidentiary status.  

It would be seen as the crass political consideration it was, and no substitute for real, respected property rights.

We don't doubt that there is a lot of value to be found in traditional Indigenous knowledge when it comes to understanding regional ecosystems.  We are somewhat doubtful it will be of any real use in getting energy infrastructure approved and built.  And we are fairly certain it will result in fewer projects getting approved in a timely fashion, if ever.

This will hurt the Canadian economy including and especially that of Indigenous communities as geographically they disproportionately stand to benefit from such development.

Rather than pander to romantic notions about traditional Indigenous knowledge Ottawa needs to recognize property rights for all Canadians.  

Indigenous peoples are no strangers to property rights.  Property is key to prosperity.  Indigenous Canadians like all Canadians, need both -- not more political virtue signalling that will suspend energy development in this country indefinitely.