Free, Prior & Informed Consent (FPIC) is the inherent right Indigenous communities have to decide “yes” or “no” to mining, forestry, oil, gas, water, or other proposed external activities that would affect their lands, territories, and natural resources.

FPIC: THE RIGHT TO DECIDE

Indigenous Peoples in Canada and globally are facing denial, resistance, and increasing levels of risk including the criminalization of Indigenous leaders and the deaths of land and rights defenders. To minimize these risks, meaningful relationships should be the priority to mutually beneficial growth and prosperity. FPIC is a process that supports the building and cultivating of such conversations and relationships.

Indigenous Peoples’ rights are inherent. They are grounded in Indigenous law, knowledge, philosophies, land use and stewardship. Indigenous rights to self-determination are granted to them by their Creator; these rights cannot be determined or denied by legislation, or any nation state. However, efforts to mobilize these rights have resulted in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) which affirms inherent rights. UNDRIP declares the minimum standard of human rights and dignity for Indigenous Peoples globally.

Article 32 (2) of UNDRIP asserts that: States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources.

UNDRIP was the product of respectful dialogue between Indigenous and non Indigenous peoples.

Free, Prior & Informed Consent is the right of Indigenous Peoples to say “yes” or “no” to all proposed developments that may affect the collective rights of their communities. Consent must be discussed free from threat to individuals or communities; must be sought prior to the beginning of any development which may affect Indigenous lands; and ensure community leaders are able to make informed decisions based on all necessary facts about the known and potential risks and benefits for their communities.

Free means consent must always be obtained without force, coercion, intimidation, manipulation, or pressure from government or industry. No violence, physical intimidation, or financial or social coercion can be used to force decisions in favour of development.

Prior means sufficient time is provided well in advance of any development activity so Indigenous communities can adequately review and consider all relevant information to balance the potential risks and benefits to their communities and territories of all proposed decisions and activities.

Informed means communities must have access to the best scientific, environmental, social, and financial information necessary to determine the risks and benefits of any decision. Communities must also be provided with adequate time to access and consult traditional knowledge holders about the proposed development activities to ensure full understanding of the long-term impact of proposed activities.

FPIC is an ongoing process that implies the involvement of all of the community.

FPIC is the right to have sufficient time to consider all relevant information in order to make important quality-of-life decisions that are consistent with each Indigenous community’s own values, beliefs, customs, needs, and rights in terms of their identified social, cultural and development priorities. If an Indigenous community chooses to provide consent this will reasonably involve the negotiation of shared ownership of business interests and profits with long-term community benefit.

Governments have a responsibility to ensure that Indigenous Peoples’ rights to FPIC are respected and protected and have an obligation to honour each community’s decision to say “yes” or “no” to any and all proposed external development activities.

Respectful FPIC processes result in better and more sustainable collaborations and interactions with all stakeholders.

To promote understanding and dialogue about inherent Indigenous rights and national and global standards we have highlighted a few learning resources. These resources are provided to support Indigenous communities that wish to be proactive in understanding their collective rights to FPIC.

Be prepared: Communities do not need to wait until industry or government approach them with proposed development projects to start having these conversations. Communities can:

Visit our website at www.fpic.info for more information and resources about the rights of Indigenous communities and Free, Prior & Informed Consent.

Recommended resources:

Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact - Rights in Action: Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) for Indigenous Peoples.

This short video provides communities with the basic knowledge around their rights to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). It demonstrates how effective it can be when corporations are looking to begin projects on Indigenous lands. This video gives a great introduction for anyone looking to understand FPIC and decision-making.

Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact - Rights in Action: Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) for Indigenous Peoples.
Oxfam Australia - FPIC Flashcards.

These flash cards give a simple overview of Free, Prior and Informed Consent. They are meant to aid communities when affected by development and extraction projects. They are a good starting point for Indigenous communities to understand their rights in the decision-making process as it pertains to these projects.

Oxfam Australia - FPIC Flashcards.
Forest Peoples Programme - Communities in the Driver's Seat.

This excellent plain language manual describes Free Prior and Informed Consent for Indigenous communities and provides 4 steps in the FPIC process: Community mobilization, Negotiation, Decision Making, Project Monitoring. The manual ends with a discussion of ways to get a fair deal between communities and companies.

Forest Peoples Programme - Communities in the Driver's Seat.
Victoria Tauli-Corpuz - Free Prior and Informed Consent: A Local and Global Issue.

In this video, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz gives a public lecture on Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). This lecture gives background information on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the ways in which international law has changed over time. She also presents the arguments that governments have used to fight against granting rights to Indigenous Peoples, and the challenges Indigenous Peoples face in claiming their rights.

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz - Free Prior and Informed Consent: A Local and Global Issue.
Indigenous Bar Association - Understanding and Implementing UNDRIP: An Introductory Handbook

This handbook gives a detailed and easy-to-understand overview on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). This handbook is a great resource to recognizing the rights of Indigenous Peoples on an international scale.

Indigenous Bar Association - Understanding and Implementing UNDRIP: An Introductory Handbook.
Centre for International Governance Innovation - UNDRIP Implementation: Braiding International, Domestic, and Indigenous Law

This report looks at ways in which governments can incorporate the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) into their own legislation. It specifically looks at Canada in relation to braiding together the international rights for Indigenous Peoples, Canadian law, and Indigenous governance.

Centre for International Governance Innovation - UNDRIP Implementation: Braiding International, Domestic, and Indigenous Law
Northern Public Affairs - The right to Free, Prior & Informed Consent

This magazine issue is a compilation of the voices of Indigenous Peoples in Canada through a collection of informative articles as well as poetry and art. The focus of this issue is on Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as told and understood by various Indigenous individuals. It is a fantastic resource that gives many examples of why FPIC is important in Canada.

Northern Public Affairs - The right to Free, Prior & Informed Consent