Statement - Legal Commentary on the Concept of Free, Prior and Informed Consent

July 20, 2005

Canada welcomes the opportunity to revisit the concept of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). As you know, this issue was discussed in detail at the International Experts' Workshop on Methodologies Regarding Free, Prior and Informed Consent and Indigenous Peoples, organized by the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York in January 2005.

At that workshop, Canada made, inter alia, the following points:

  • The concept of free, prior and informed consent continues to evolve, and there are differing views of its nature and application;

  • We must always keep in mind the extra-ordinary diversity of indigenous interests, rights and circumstances which free, prior and informed consent attempts to address;

  • In Canada's view, a broad, flexible and inclusive policy framework, free from the confines of a rigid definition, would best serve the interests of the greatest number of parties, both indigenous and non-indigenous;

  • Canada believes that what is of fundamental importance here is the changing of behaviour, on the part of all interested parties, so that indigenous communities and peoples are more fully involved and consulted and, where appropriate, accommodated on development and other decisions that directly affect their interests and ways of life;

  • In Canada's experience, the meaningful involvement of indigenous peoples and the development of processes that support the fair and equitable balancing of interests have been far more important than focussing on consent per se. Indeed, it is more useful to conceptualize a “continuum” of approaches, of which consent is one important option.

Canada is tabling updated interventions made at the Permanent Forum workshop, for the information of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations and in support of your consideration of this important issue.

Thank you.