5.2 Building an auto industry through reconciliation

The shift to EV production is an opportunity to grow Canada’s auto industry, and secure good jobs across all areas of a burgeoning supply chain. Canada has all of the ingredients, from mines to manufacturing, to build a forward-looking powerhouse industry that grows the economy while reducing Canada’s carbon footprint at the same time. However, it is imperative that government strategists and policymakers understand the perils of this plan without a full and proper acknowledgement of Canada’s repressive colonial past and its obligations to Indigenous Peoples and their land.

As part of its truth and reconciliation commitments, the federal government passed into law the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous People in 2021.62 This legislation requires government to ensure all federal laws are consistent with the Declaration’s terms, including requirements that Indigenous Peoples have “free, prior and informed consent” before Canada can permit any mining project. Projected growth in EV production will require a significant expansion in nickel, lithium and copper demand63 by the auto industry, inevitably resulting in the construction of new mines.

According to one estimate, Canada must build seven new nickel mines, two smelters and one refinery over the next 30 years simply to maintain its global share of nickel production.64 Assurances that such discussions over new mining projects happen in consultation and with the consent of Indigenous Peoples, in line with UNDRIP, is paramount. Mining firms must govern their projects under the strongest environmental standards, including the use of sustainable and energy inputs, maximize the economic benefit to Indigenous and Northern communities and commit to after-life land reclamation.

62 See Government of Canada, Implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/declaration/index.html

63 See Mark Podlasly, What happens if Indigenous people say no to mining the minerals needed to run EVs? In Corporate Knights, https://www.corporateknights.com/climate-and-carbon/ev-battery-mining-indigenous/

64 See Brendan Marshall, Building Supply Chain Resiliency of Critical Minerals, published by Canadian Global Affairs Institute (November 2021): https://www.cgai.ca/building_supply_chain_resiliency_of_critical_minerals