Deputy Minister of the Environment, Chief Negociator, Devolution, Government of Nunavut, Government of Nunavut
[Witness speaks in Inuktitut]
Good afternoon. As the chair mentioned, my name is David Akeeagok, and I am the deputy minister of the Department of Environment in the Government of Nunavut. On behalf of Premier Aariak, I would like to thank the committee for your invitation to the premier to appear before you. Premier Aariak sends her regrets. I am appearing on her behalf.
I am appearing to speak in support of part 1 of the bill, the Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act. As Premier Aariak has noted, the bill marks an important milestone in creating an effective regime for Inuit and the government to manage resource development in Nunavut together.
The bill fulfills a major commitment Canada made under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. In 1993, the Inuit of Nunavut and Canada signed the largest land claims agreement in the country. The Nunavut Land Claims Agreement requires that new federal legislation be created to set forth the powers and functions of the resource management boards created under the agreement. In this case, they are the Nunavut Impact Review Board and the Nunavut Planning Commission. These two boards play an essential role in land and resource management in Nunavut. They are composed of members appointed or nominated by Inuit as well as by the territorial and federal governments. They have been in operation since 1996, under the authority and powers granted to them under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement and the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act.
Between 2002 and late 2009, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, the Government of Nunavut, and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated worked together to complete the federal legislation that would set out clear roles for the boards. The Nunavut Planning Commission and the Nunavut Impact Review Board also participated in that work. I would like to acknowledge the hard work officials from the Government of Nunavut, the federal Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Nunavut Tunngavik, and the two boards have put into the development of this bill.
The working group was guided by the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement as well as by the experience of drafting similar legislation in the Northwest Territories and the Yukon. The working group also benefited from the work the board, Inuit, and the government have been doing since 1996.
The Government of Nunavut believes this bill will make a number of improvements to the regulatory regime in Nunavut. Specifically, the Nunavut section of this bill will make the work of the Nunavut Impact Review Board and the Nunavut Planning Commission stronger by backing it up with solid federal legislation. It will also create a clear regulatory process with predictable timelines.
The bill will integrate the process of approving project proposals by the Nunavut Planning Commission and the Nunavut Impact Review Board. The bill establishes a one-window approach to project approval, with the Nunavut Planning Commission as the entry point for all project approvals. The bill establishes three-party approval of the land use plan by Inuit, Canada, and the Government of Nunavut.
The bill further clarifies the role of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency in Nunavut. This will eliminate the overlap of jurisdictions, which has caused confusion and delay elsewhere in Canada. The bill will make it clear which projects are subject to assessment. It will also set out in a schedule all government authorizations that must comply with the requirements of the bill before being finalized.
The bill sets out the regulatory approval process in a clear manner and organizes the processes chronologically.
The bill allows for enforcement of land use plans and project certifications on Inuit-owned lands, crown lands, and commissioner lands.
The bill requires that public hearings be conducted in Inuktitut if requested by a member, proponent, or intervenor.
The bill includes specific directions to regulators to include in their permits applicable terms and conditions of the land use plans and project assessment certificates.
The bill includes specific timelines for regulators and ministers to make decisions. This will bring certainty and predictability to Nunavummiut, to industry, and to other stakeholders.
Finally, the bill provides for offence provisions in relation to land use plans and project certification.
As the committee can see, this is an important piece of legislation for the north, and it will contribute to the economic development of Nunavut.
Additionally, as members of this committee may know, the Government of Nunavut is currently engaged in devolution discussions to transfer jurisdiction over land and resources from the federal government to the Government of Nunavut. A devolution agreement has been concluded with the Yukon, and an agreement in principle has been reached with the Northwest Territories.
An effective regulatory system, which Bill C-47 will create, is a key component of devolution. The Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act will assist in creating a transparent and effective regulatory system in Nunavut. It will allow the Government of Nunavut to take on management of lands and resources in a seamless way without disruption to resource development in Nunavut.
This legislation is an important achievement by the federal and territorial governments and Inuit to strengthen Nunavut's institutions and enable Nunavummiut to advance along the path towards greater self-reliance.
Mr. Chairman, that's all I have in terms of opening remarks. I would be happy to take questions from committee members.