Evidence of meeting #7 for Indigenous and Northern Affairs in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was c-5.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Strater Crowfoot  Executive Director, Indian Oil and Gas Canada, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Karl Jacques  Senior Counsel, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
James Ahnassay  Member of the Board, Indian Resource Council
Roy Fox  President, Indian Resource Council
George Stanley  Chief of the Frog Lake First Nation, Indian Resource Council
Joe Dion  President of the Frog Lake Energy Resources Corporation, Indian Resource Council
Delbert Wapass  Vice-Chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, Indian Resource Council

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Right.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

John Duncan Conservative Vancouver Island North, BC

We do have, as a committee, some correspondence from the Stoney Nakoda Nation regarding their circumstance, where they felt they had been shorted on royalty payments. According to the correspondence, they started to go after that in 1991, to seek compensation. It wasn't settled until 2007 or early 2008.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

I'm sorry. If you could finish, then we'll take a brief response from the minister.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

John Duncan Conservative Vancouver Island North, BC

It seems an inordinate length of time, so I would ask for a brief comment on the length of time. Secondly, I would assume that Bill C-5, the bill we're discussing, would eliminate that possibility from recurring. That's my final question.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

I'll let Mr. Crowfoot answer that.

But on the Stoney Nation, they were involved in all of the consultation meetings that took place up to the tabling of the bill, all of the sessions for the last couple of years. None of the issues that are in their letter was ever raised at that level. So it's really unfortunate, because there was ample opportunity to address this at that time and nothing was ever raised. Now after it was tabled we have this letter.

On the specific answer, Mr. Crowfoot.

9:55 a.m.

Executive Director, Indian Oil and Gas Canada, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Strater Crowfoot

Thank you, Minister, Mr. Chair.

With respect to the Stoneys and the royalties that you're referring to, oil and gas operations are very technical in nature. Through a regime that is called “top gas”, which the province and companies worked out some years ago, it was very complicated how the price of gas was calculated and marketed. Through a number of audits we've conducted we've determined how much was owing to the first nation. It's very complicated, and we hope through C-5 that it addresses a longer limitation period for us to look at the operations. It helps us set a royalty fee that is more certain.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Unfortunately, I think we're out of time. I appreciate members' patience.

We'll go to our last question for this round, with Mr. Lévesque for five minutes.

9:55 a.m.

Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Good morning, Minister.

Mr. Crowfoot, you looked like you very much wanted to answer a question my colleague Mr. Lemay asked earlier. I'd like you to answer briefly because this is on my time. You don't need to press a button: here someone controls our desire to speak.

Do you remember Mr. Lemay's question?

9:55 a.m.

Executive Director, Indian Oil and Gas Canada, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Strater Crowfoot

Could you repeat the question, please?

9:55 a.m.

Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

The question concerned assistance in implementing Bill C-5.

9:55 a.m.

Executive Director, Indian Oil and Gas Canada, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Strater Crowfoot

We have worked very closely with the Indian Resource Council in developing this act and regulations.

As the minister said, a number of first nations have gone beyond our just collecting the royalties for them. So they're becoming more involved in the oil and gas operations. Currently about one-quarter of our land base is held and owned by first nations companies. A quarter of the companies we deal with are first nations owned.

The assistance we provide to first nations is to help them collect the royalties and make sure those royalties are properly due to them. By doing so, the first nations are able to access this money and then perhaps invest it in their oil and gas operations.

But this bill works with FNOGMMA, because our regime is a regulatory regime and the first nations want to get more involved in oil and gas. They can look at FNOGMMA or look at the moneys part, and by taking the moneys they can access the moneys and then decide how they want to use them and perhaps even invest in their oil and gas companies.

9:55 a.m.

Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Thank you, Mr. Crowfoot.

Minister, now I'll ask my own questions.

If I were aboriginal, I would really be concerned about Bill C-5, because it states that the government may exclude First Nations lands containing crude bitumen from the application of the act. .

I'll ask my questions in sequence because I don't have a lot of time left, and I'll ask you to answer them comprehensively.

Why would First Nations lands potentially be excluded from the application of the act? They could be excluded if bitumen is found on those lands.

The bill provides for broader regulation that would make possible more extensive regulations over First Nations lands and gas on Indian lands. Can you give committee members some examples of desired regulations under the bill that currently do not exist under the Indian Oil and Gas Act?

10 a.m.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Thank you.

I can think of a few examples where first nations, in working with us, may suggest lands that are inappropriate for oil and gas development. For example, they may say something that has cultural importance or spiritual significance or something that's environmentally sensitive, and they may identify any of those things--maybe somewhere that is home to a species of animal or plant they're concerned about, and so on.

But all these are efforts to work with first nations. The effort is not to be arbitrary; the effort is to give the minister the power to do it, if you will, on their behalf. And we're working closely with first nations to.... The powers that you describe I wouldn't consider to be arbitrary; they're to work with first nations, both on development of regulations and on identifying some property they may not want to use. But it's like negative option billing. If first nations want to proceed, then we want to work with them, if it's possible to make that happen. In other words, I'm not going into it saying that I don't want to do it. We're going into it saying, if this works for you and in your first nation you've come to this conclusion and you want to proceed, then we want to work with you and do it in a good way so that you maximize your benefits.

On the second question, I've got so many things written down here I'm not sure what the second question was.

10 a.m.

Bloc

Yvon Lévesque Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

That concerns clause 3(2), the one on bitumen.

10 a.m.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

I think your second question concerned the types of regulations we might envision. A good example is environmental regulations, as I mentioned: making sure we can replicate where possible the provincial regulations. Sara has handed me a note saying that we can also make them as good as or better than the provincial regulations. If there are particular cases in point in which first nations say they think they need to go further on this, that this is something we can make even better, then we can do that, working with them.

There's a long list here, with everything from regulations on how reports are made to how we store and access records. We can do everything from establishing interest rates on how the money is paid to.... There's a long list of things that can be done. I just mentioned one on reclamation or environmental standards, but it covers the whole regime of things that are of interest to first nations, such as any property owner would want on their property. We want to make sure we exploit this resource in a way that benefits the first nation, but also does the cleanup, does the environmental studies, does the work that gets the job done.

10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

That's great, Minister.

Merci, Monsieur Lévesque.

Thank you, Mr. Minster, for the time you've given for our first meeting on consideration of Bill C-5. We appreciate your taking the time away from other commitments that we know you had this morning to attend.

Members, we will have a very brief suspension so that we can formulate for our next witnesses.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Members, we're now going to proceed to our second hour. With us, in addition to the officials who were with us for the first hour this morning, we have representatives from the department and from the Indian Resource Council. Chief James Ahnassay is going to lead off.

Chief, you can introduce the other members of the delegation who are with you today. We have ten minutes for your presentation, and then we'll proceed to questions from members.

I know there were questions from the last round that we did not have time for. Perhaps members who wish to can get on the list. We have officials here from the minister's office to help with those answers.

Chief, if you'd like to proceed, you have 10 minutes. Merci beaucoup.

10:10 a.m.

Chief James Ahnassay Member of the Board, Indian Resource Council

[Witness speaks in Dene]

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I'll make a few introductory remarks on behalf of our chairman, Errnol Gray, and then we'll turn the presentation over to Mr. Roy Fox, president of the IRC. I would like to start off by introducing our delegation, which is representing the Indian Resource Council: Roy Fox, president and CEO; Delbert Wapass, vice-chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations; Joe Dion, who was the founder and original president and chairman of the IRC; and George Stanley, who is the chief of the Frog Lake First Nation in northeastern Alberta.

Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to be here today as you study Bill C-5.

The IRC has been an active participant in the development of this legislation. We have a vested interest in the passage of this bill, and we hope we can assist you in doing so quickly. We recognize that this federal legislation is strongly needed to enable efficient and effective regulation of industry activity on our lands.

The Indian Resource Council advocates on behalf of its membership for changes to federal policy that will improve and increase economic development opportunities in the oil and gas sector for the first nations and their membership.

We provided information about a proposed amendment to our membership and garnered their input to the extent possible.

The IRC has worked with Canada to develop a long-term approach to the reform of the Indian Oil and Gas Act. We have a steering committee to manage this process and two joint technical committees in place to work on the specifics.

The work of joint technical committee 1 is reflected in this legislation. This committee has started to develop a regulatory regime that this regulation will authorize. Many of the issues and concerns that have been raised by our members will be addressed through this regulatory process.

Joint technical committee 2 focuses on what we call the continuous change process. This committee has responsibility for discussing issues that have not been fully addressed in this bill. These include future Indian Oil and Gas Act modernization changes, issues related to the first nations management and control of their oil and gas resources, and economic and business development.

We are here today, Mr. Chair, to formally express our support for this initiative, to speak to you about our agenda for continuous change in the management of oil and gas on Indian lands, and, most important, to answer your questions about C-5 and our involvement in this initiative. The Indian Resource Council has participated in this process under the leadership of our president, Mr. Roy Fox. At this point, I would like to turn our presentation over to Mr. Fox.

Thank you.

March 3rd, 2009 / 10:15 a.m.

Roy Fox President, Indian Resource Council

[Witness speaks in Blackfoot]

Thank you, Chief Ahnassay.

And thank you, Chair and the committee, for giving us the opportunity to appear before you today.

I would like to share with you the perspective that the IRC, the Indian Resource Council, has always had with respect to oil and natural gas development and the work we do.

Our role has been to ensure that our member first nations get the best possible return on their oil and natural gas resources. We have tried many ways of meeting that important objective over the years. Initially, it was to ensure that the royalties we received were fair and equitable. However, it has gone a little further over the years as we have come to realize the level of involvement that we can have on the business side of the oil and gas sector and pertaining to development of our lands.

Enhancing that involvement has become a key objective of our organization. In talking of greater control of our oil and natural gas resources, we are also talking about the ability to really participate in the business side of our industry for the benefit of all first nations and their members.

Mr. Chair, the Indian Oil and Gas Act provides the framework for the management and stewardship of oil and natural gas development on our lands. The Indian Resource Council has been working since 1999, in partnership with Indian Oil and Gas Canada and the Department of Indian Affairs, on the modernization of the Indian Oil and Gas Act. The purpose of these amendments is to provide Indian Oil and Gas Canada—our resource manager, our regulator, our fiduciary—with a more modern toolkit with which to perform these important roles. We believe that the amendments contained in this legislation will provide Indian Oil and Gas Canada with the authorities required to enforce industry compliance on behalf of first nations.

Chief Ahnassay spoke earlier of the work that our technical committees have been doing in support of this process. I would like to expand somewhat on the work of joint technical committee 1.

Joint technical committee 1 is made up of representatives of both Canada and our member first nations, representing most of the major oil and gas producing first nations, who obviously have a vested interest in the proposed amendments to this act. We have had regular and consistent participation and input from first nations since this process began in earnest in 2002.

These representatives have been drawn from the Four Nations of Hobbema, the Tribal Chiefs of Alberta, the Dene Tha', the Blood Tribe, the Siksika, the Stoney tribes, and of course the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations.

Since this process was re-engaged in the summer of 2006, this group has been involved in the most detailed aspects of developing a framework for the bill that we could all agree upon, negotiating the drafting instructions for use by Canada in the preparation of this bill, and reviewing the final legislation prior to its introduction in the last Parliament as Bill C-63. This group was also tasked with the responsibility of keeping their first nations and leaders apprised of this work and bringing feedback to the joint committee.

This was a truly cooperative process in which we agreed on what would be included in this package and what would be put off to a later date. We did not get all of what we wanted here, nor did Canada. What we did get was an agreement on some fundamental changes to our governing act that would benefit our first nations.

We also agreed on a continuous change process and a regulatory amendment process that will address additional and valid concerns that are raised by first nations. This work has already commenced, and the estimated time is that it will take between 18 and 24 months to complete.

In addition to working with Indian Oil and Gas Canada and the Department of Indian Affairs headquarters on this initiative, we have worked hard to keep our members informed and involved in the discussions. Obviously the participation of affected first nations is very important to the acceptance and validation of any new initiatives. While the bulk of our members is located in Alberta and Saskatchewan, we have also travelled to meet with interested parties in British Columbia, Ontario, and the Atlantic provinces. In addition, we have hosted two detailed symposiums for our members, where all aspects of this package have been presented and discussed at length. We also responded to individual requests by first nations to provide additional information, which we have done and will continue to do as the regulatory process starts.

Finally, the membership of the Indian Resource Council has reviewed the progress—

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Mr. Fox, excuse me for a second. I'm sorry. We are over our time, so if you want to sort of summarize and bring it to a wrap-up, we'll give you another minute or so to finish up and then we'll proceed with questions.

10:20 a.m.

President, Indian Resource Council

Roy Fox

Okay, let me just quickly finish off, Mr. Chair, some of the more important points.

While we do derive some benefit from these reforms, the true benefits accrue to Indian Oil and Gas Canada and Canada through provisions of a more modern and efficient set of authorities and regulations to do their job efficiently on behalf of first nations. The hopes and future aspirations of our members are being dealt with through a process of continuous change, where the IRC priorities are being discussed. Through these discussions, we hope that Canada will fulfill the commitments that have been made on issues that this bill fails to address.

Perhaps it would be good at this time, Mr. Chairman, to stop. I would like to involve the panel we have here, the chiefs who are here, and of course my predecessor, Joe Dion, to answer any questions you may have.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

Very good, and I appreciate your understanding with that.

I would say that if there were some items that you wanted to include, perhaps you could get those in to the responses in the course of the time that we have from members, if there were some items of your opening remarks that you wanted to still cover off. We appreciate your understanding with that.

10:20 a.m.

President, Indian Resource Council

Roy Fox

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bruce Stanton

We'll proceed with the first round, and likely only one round of questions here. We'll begin with Mr. Bagnell, for seven minutes.

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Thank you.

Maybe in the future, when there are only hours, we could have shorter amounts for the round.

There has been an amendment proposed to us that would give the first nations the ability, like other first nations governments, like other governments, to cancel contracts with oil companies when they don't produce the royalties, just like the federal government or provincial government would. I was wondering, Chief Stanley, what you think about that proposed amendment.