Nagoya Protocol

The other day I was asked a question about the Nagoya Protocol.  In order to answer the question, I had to review the text of the Protocol.  Although the Protocol has been around since 2011, it has recently received attention due to the announcement that the Trudeau Liberal government intends to move forward to implement the Protocol.  The Protocol has as its focus the use of biological systems and living organisms to make products and processes for use.  The Protocol seeks to promote a “fair and equitable” sharing of the benefits arising from utilization of genetic resources.  It also seeks to provide funding for the conservation of biological diversity.  An example of the need for conservation of biological diversity is the rapid rate of destruction of the rain forests and conversion to farmland.   It is hoped that funding can be secured that will provide financial incentives to preserve the rainforests.  The knowledge of genetic resources is often held by indigenous and local communities as “traditional knowledge”, and the Protocol contemplates domestic legislation to establish rights of indigenous and local communities over such genetic resources.  The Canadian government will be seeking prior and informed approval and involvement of our indigenous peoples to the use of their traditional knowledge upon mutually agreed terms that will see the indigenous peoples compensated.  The Nagoya Protocol goes hand in hand with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIP).  Article 24 of DRIP provides “Indigenous peoples have the right to their traditional medicines and to maintain their health practices, including the conservation of their vital medicinal plants, animals and minerals. Indigenous individuals also have the right to access, without any discrimination, to all social and health services”. Article 31 of DRIP provides “Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, as well as the manifestations of their sciences, technologies and cultures, including human and genetic resources, seeds, medicines, knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora, oral traditions, literatures, designs, sports and traditional games and visual and performing arts. They also have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their intellectual property over such cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions”.  The passing of a law to implement the Nagoya Protocol in Canada should be relatively straightforward.  Other Countries have already adopted the Protocol and a review of their law should be of assistance in preparing equivalent Canadian legislation.  What may be interesting is the negotiations with our indigenous peoples that will follow the passing of the Canadian legislation into law.  Once a spotlight is placed on the rights of indigenous peoples, there may also have to be put in place protection of the “traditional cultural expressions” of the indigenous peoples as contemplated by Article 31 of DRIP.  I suspect we will discover there are many “traditional cultural expressions” that we have come to take for granted, such as the Cowichan blanket.