Indigenous peoples’ rights proposal planned at Canadian energy firm TransCanada

SHARE and the United Church of Canada engaging with Calgary-based energy firm

The United Church of Canada’s pension plan has decided to go forward with a proposal filed at energy infrastructure company TransCanada which asks the board to report on how the company respects international standards for Indigenous Peoples’ rights in business activities.

Canada’s Shareholder Association for Research & Education (SHARE) has led the engagement on behalf of the pension plan. The proposal was filed in November 2018 but they had hoped Calgary-based TransCanada would show enough commitment so that it could be withdrawn before the AGM.

The proposal wants TransCanada to show how it consistently applies the two main internationally-recognised standards in the subject: the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and International Labour Organization Convention 169 (ILO 169).

Both UNDRIP and ILO 169 encompass the right to free, prior, and informed consent (known as FPIC) before approval of projects affecting First Peoples’ lands.

The proposal argues that it is difficult for shareholders to understand TransCanada’s approach to indigenous relations across jurisdictions, in particular Canada, US and Mexico where a number of pipelines are under construction.

“The approach needs to be considered more thoughtfully throughout the company and not just in the indigenous relations team. We are hoping the proposal brings greater shareholder support to the issue and prompts action,” Delaney Greig, SHARE’s Manager, Shareholder Engagement and Policy, told RI.

TransCanada is facing opposition from indigenous communities in Mexico over the construction of the Tuxpan-Tula Pipeline, which is reportedly causing delays.

Likewise, the Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project (CGL) in Canada is opposed by the Wet’suwet’en Nation’s hereditary chiefs.

In its third quarter 2018 report, TransCanada informed shareholders that after receiving all regulatory permits, construction would begin in January 2019.

TransCanada stated: “CGL has signed project and community agreements with all 20 elected indigenous bands along the pipeline route, confirming strong support from indigenous communities across the province” of British Columbia.In January the Royal Canadian Mounted Police intervened to enforce an interim injunction order to allow for TransCanada’s initial construction work.

The Office of the Wet’suwet’en said in a statement: “There is no legitimate agreement with CGL as reported in the media, and we stand behind the Unist’ot’en and Gitdumt’en. Under ‘Anuc niwh’it’en, Wet’suwet’en rule of law, all five clans of the Wet’suwet’en have unanimously opposed all pipeline proposals and given no authority to Coastal Gaslink/TransCanada to do work on Wet’suwet’en lands.”

“The UN Declaration of Rights for Indigenous Peoples’ FPIC requirement does not apply to our projects.”

The Right Rev. Richard Bott, the Moderator of the United Church of Canada (the most senior elected official of the church), and Rev. Maggie Dieter, Executive Minister, Aboriginal Ministries and Indigenous Justice, wrote in a letter to Canadian PM Justin Trudeau:

“We believe there are lessons for settler Canada to take from what is happening on Wet’suwet’en land: when corporations seek access to traditional territories, they must honour Aboriginal title to these lands and obtain the free, prior, and informed consent not just of elected leadership, but also of the community, including hereditary leaders who have particular responsibility for the land.”

TransCanada’s ESG policy considers that the free, prior and informed consent requirement does not apply to its projects as its infrastructure “does not require the permanent loss of the use of land and therefore does not require the relocation of Indigenous communities”.

Among the top 10 institutional shareholders of TransCanada are: Royal Bank of Canada, T. Rowe Price Associates, Bank of Montreal, BMO Asset Management, Deutsche Bank, Vanguard Group and Wellington Management Company.

According to the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, 21 banks with JP Morgan Chase as lead agent are funding TransCanada’s CGL, including European institutions such as Barclays, Crédit Agricole and Credit Suisse.

The Office of the Wet’suwet’en and TransCanada were not immediately available for comment. TransCanada’s AGM is expected in April.