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Late last week, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde wrote to the association’s president and chief executive officer, Tim McMillan, seen here in Ottawa on June 3, 2019, to say he was concerned about recent correspondence with federal ministers.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers says it remains committed to the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples after it received a strongly worded letter from Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde outlining concerns.

Late last week, Mr. Bellegarde wrote to the association’s president and chief executive officer, Tim McMillan, to say he was concerned about recent correspondence with federal ministers, including a request to defer implementation of the declaration. CAPP represents Canada’s oil and natural gas industry.

“I am writing to inform you that CAPP’s call for an immediate halt and indefinite delay to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [UNDRIP] will not promote economic recovery or certainty,” the letter said.

UNDRIP spells out rights that constitute the minimum standards for “the survival, dignity and well-being" of Indigenous peoples, and the Liberal government has pledged to table legislation on its implementation within the first year of its mandate.

Mr. Bellegarde told The Globe and Mail on Tuesday he wanted to make it clear to CAPP that the environment and the economy go hand-in-hand, adding that “everyone needs to understand that denying First Nations rights creates conflict in court cases.”

“If you honour and implement First Nations rights, it leads to peace and prosperity and economic certainty," he said.

For its part, CAPP told The Globe it has responded to the Assembly of First Nations directly and it is in the process of arranging for a meeting between Mr. Bellegarde and Mr. McMillan.

“As a matter of clarity on CAPP’s position on UNDRIP, we continue to support the implementation of UNDRIP and stated this on Friday last week,” the association said in a statement.

CAPP has also said it raised concerns with the federal government about the ability for full engagement and consultation now because of the “current and unprecedented health and economic crisis" with COVID-19.

Mr. Bellegarde said he welcomes the opportunity to meet with Mr. McMillan to discuss the importance of the declaration while he conceded there has been a severe economic shock during the global pandemic.

UNDRIP said it amounts to a road map to reconciliation, he said, adding many oil and gas producing First Nations see the importance of sustainable development.

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