GENEVA, Switzerland, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- A U.N. special envoy on the rights of indigenous peoples called on tribal leaders to work closely with the Canadian government in the midst of oil protests.
Tribal communities in Canada joined forces under the Idle No More movement to protest in opposition to Bill C-45. The group said the measure would do away with "critical laws" meant to protect the environment.
First Nations communities in Canada have expressed concern that development plans for oil and natural gas would put their cultural heritage and environmental interests in jeopardy. Tribal Chief Theresa Spence began a hunger strike Dec. 11 to protest the bill.
The U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples James Anaya said he was encouraged both sides agreed to meet Friday to address the issue.
"Both the government of Canada and First Nations representatives must take full advantage of this opportunity to rebuild relationships in a true spirit of good faith and partnership," he said in a statement.
Idle No More in December staged a "global synchronized spiritual awakening" to protest the bill. Tar Sands Blockade, a group concerned about the environmental effects of Canadian crude, has protested in the United States in solidarity with the tribal movement.