23 September 2011

Misreading Peru's Law on the Right of Indigenous Peoples to Prior Consultation

On 6 September 2011, Peru’s President, Ollanta Humala, signed into law landmark legislation on the right of his country’s indigenous peoples to consultation (Ley del derecho a la consulta previa a los pueblos indígenas u originarios, reconocido en el convenio 169 de la Organización Internacional del Trabajo (OIT)).

Article 3 of the new law sets forth the aim or objective of consultation:
The objective of the consultation is to reach agreement or consent between the State and the indigenous or native peoples regarding legislative or administrative measures that directly affect them, through intercultural dialogue that guarantees their inclusion in the State's decision-making processes and the adoption of measures respectful of their collective rights.

Set against Article 3 is Article 15, which among other things says:
The final decision on the approval of the legislative or administrative measure belongs to the competent state agency. … If no agreement is reached, it is the responsibility of the state agencies to take all the measures that are then necessary to guarantee the collective rights of the indigenous or native peoples.

Some early commentators have read Article 15 as contradicting Article 3 and so either have gone on to assert that Article 15 runs afoul of international law on the right of indigenous peoples to free, prior, and informed consent and then suggest that it should be downplayed in favour of Article 3 or - wishing to avoid drawing attention to it - have noted Article 3 without mentioning Article 15.

Likely unawares, these commentators have inflated the international legal principle of free, prior, and informed consent into an indigenous veto or its like and thus have fallen into a trap similar to one fallen into earlier by the Chief Justice of Canada, albeit to opposite effect. As I note in my previous post on Consultation and Free, Prior, and Informed Consent, drawing from the analysis of James Anaya, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous People, there is no contradiction between saying, on the one hand, that the state should seek and even in some cases must obtain the free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous peoples before deciding to go ahead with plans and projects inimical to their rights and, on the other, that the decision is the state’s to make, even if sometimes it must, normatively speaking, result in a “No”.


Here is the Spanish text on which the above translations are based:
Artículo 3. Finalidad de la consulta
La finalidad de la consulta es alcanzar un acuerdo o consentimiento entre el Estado y los pueblos indígenas u originarios respecto a la medida legislativa o administrativa que les afecten directamente, a través de un diálogo intercultural que garantice su inclusión en los procesos de toma de decisión del Estado y la adopción de medidas respetuosas de sus derechos colectivos.
Artículo 15. Decisión

La decisión final sobre la aprobación de la medida legislativa o administrativa corresponde a la entidad estatal competente. Dicha decisión debe estar debidamente motivada e implica una evaluación de los puntos de vista, sugerencias y recomendaciones planteados por los pueblos indígenas u originarios durante el proceso de diálogo, así como el análisis de las consecuencias que la adopción de una determinada medida tendría respecto a sus derechos colectivos reconocidos constitucionalmente y en los tratados ratificados por el Estado peruano.

El acuerdo entre el Estado y los pueblos indígenas u originarios, como resultado del proceso de consulta, es de carácter obligatorio para ambas partes. En caso no se alcance un acuerdo, corresponde a las entidades estatales adoptar todas las medidas que resulten necesarias para garantizar los derechos colectivos de los pueblos indígenas u originarios.

Los acuerdos del resultado del proceso de consulta son exigibles en sede administrativa y judicial.

10 September 2011

Consultation and Free, Prior, and Informed Consent

The McLachlin Court's position on the right of Aboriginal peoples to participate in the Canadian state's decision making processes where those decisions may adversely affect their rights is a step back from the position staked out by the preceding Lamer Court.  In his reasons for decision in Delgamuukw (1997), then Chief Justice Antonio Lamer, speaking of what might be required to constitutionally justify state infringement of Aboriginal title, wrote:
... aboriginal title encompasses within it a right to choose to what ends a piece of land can be put.  ...  This aspect of aboriginal title suggests that the fiduciary relationship between the Crown and aboriginal peoples may be satisfied by the involvement of aboriginal peoples in decisions taken with respect to their lands. There is always a duty of consultation. Whether the aboriginal group has been consulted is relevant to determining whether the infringement of aboriginal title is justified, in the same way that the Crown’s failure to consult an aboriginal group with respect to the terms by which reserve land is leased may breach its fiduciary duty at common law....  The nature and scope of the duty of consultation will vary with the circumstances. In occasional cases, when the breach is less serious or relatively minor, it will be no more than a duty to discuss important decisions that will be taken with respect to lands held pursuant to aboriginal title. Of course, even in these rare cases when the minimum acceptable standard is consultation, this consultation must be in good faith, and with the intention of substantially addressing the concerns of the aboriginal peoples whose lands are at issue. In most cases, it will be significantly deeper than mere consultation. Some cases may even require the full consent of an aboriginal nation, particularly when provinces enact hunting and fishing regulations in relation to aboriginal lands. (para. 168; italics mine)
There are three things I want to note about this passage here. First, Aboriginal title encompasses the right to exclusive use and occupation of the land (para. 166).  It also encompasses the right to choose to what to uses the land can be put (para. 166).  The latter encompassed right flows from the first.  Thus, Aboriginal title encompasses the right to exclusively choose whether and how to use the land.    Second, the right to consultation in the face of state infringement of title, and along with it the principle that in certain circumstances the state may not proceed without indigenous consent, are aimed at avoiding encroaching unnecessarily not only on land subject to Aboriginal title but also on the right to exclusively decide whether and how the land is to be used.  Third, Justice McLachlin (as she then was), who had been on the Supreme Court of Canada for a decade when the reasons for decision in Delgamuukw were released, there stated - without elaborating on - her concurrence with Chief Justice Lamer.

On 7 January 2000, she was sworn in as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Nearly seven years after Delgamuukw, after quoting from the aforementioned passage three times in her reasons for judgment in Haida Nation (2004), Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin wrote: