Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I'm pleased to provide an overview of the operation of part 2 of Bill C-47, the proposed Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board Act. This part is as important for what it doesn't do as for what it does, as we'll see.
As Mr. Traynor noted, establishing the board fulfills the Government of Canada's obligations under the Gwich'in Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement and the Sahtu Dene and Metis Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement. Both agreements refer specifically to the need for a surface rights board.
The establishment of the board is also consistent with the terms and the spirit of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement and the Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Agreement, the other two comprehensive land claims in the Northwest Territories.
The Tlicho agreement allows for the establishment of a surface rights board. The Inuvialuit Final Agreement specifies that any interim measures related to access across Inuvialuit lands to reach adjacent lands will be replaced when a law of general application, such as this act, is enacted.
Once established, the surface rights board will provide a single mechanism to resolve access disputes for the entire Northwest Territories.
It must be iterated that the surface rights board is being established as a tool of last resort. Its real efficacy stems from its mere presence, which provides the impetus for parties to negotiate agreements themselves.
As stated in proposed section 9 of the act, the board will consist of no fewer than five and no more than nine members, plus five alternates, and all members and alternates will be appointed by the minister. There is no nomination process contemplated in the bill, as there is no requirement for nominations in the land claims agreements; however, that does not preclude the minister from making a call for nominations or individuals from writing to the minister suggesting a candidate for board membership.
In accordance with proposed section 13, while appointing members and alternate members, the minister is required to appoint members who are residents of the Northwest Territories. Also in accordance with that same section, when dealing with a dispute related to a specific settlement area, the panel hearing the dispute will be composed of a panel of three, at least one of whom will be a resident of the particular settlement area, as is required in the land claims agreements.
Further, when appointing members for particular settlement areas, the minister must appoint members who have considerable knowledge in respect of the lands, the environment, or aboriginal traditional knowledge relating to the settlement area, a requirement which was added as an accommodation measure.
What specifically will the new Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board do, Mr. Chairman? The board is authorized to resolve disputes between holders of surface or subsurface rights and the owner or occupant of surface lands when agreement on terms, conditions, and compensation for access cannot be reached by the parties in question. The board will have jurisdiction to resolve access disputes throughout the Northwest Territories.
In accordance with proposed sections 56 and 71, when setting out the terms and conditions, the board would consider matters such as times when the right of access may be exercised, the location and route of access, the number of individuals who may exercise the right of access, activities that may be carried out, and equipment that may be used. The board also has the power to determine compensation for unforeseen damages that result from access, to award costs, and to periodically review or terminate access orders.
As indicated, the board will have jurisdiction over disputes that involve surface and subsurface rights. Surface rights are rights associated with land that relate to the ability of the owner or occupant to use and enjoy the land. Subsurface rights are typically mineral or oil and gas rights, often held by the crown, which are granted to third parties through other acts of Parliament.
Usually landowners enjoy surface rights but do not own subsurface rights. Landowners or third parties can obtain mineral rights or oil and gas rights from the crown through an act of Parliament, such as the Territorial Lands Act or the Canada Petroleum Resources Act. When the crown grants subsurface rights to a mining company, for instance, these rights include a right of access to the land to exercise the mineral rights.
In some cases, however, land claim agreements establish ownership of surface and subsurface rights. In these cases, aboriginal groups with settled claims may have full ownership, both surface and subsurface, of specific portions of land in their settlement areas.
The board has no jurisdiction in cases in which aboriginal groups enjoy ownership of surface and subsurface rights, except to resolve disputes related to access across those lands for commercial purposes. The board does, however, have jurisdiction in cases in which an aboriginal group has ownership of surface rights but the crown holds the rights to the subsurface. In these cases, the board replaces the interim arbitration measures related to access in the four land claim agreements.
I want to ensure that I have been very clear and that there is no confusion: the board has no power to grant rights, whether mineral, oil, or gas rights.
The Canada Petroleum Resources Act sets out the process for issuing oil and gas rights throughout Canada, including the north.
Mining regulations in the Territorial Lands Act outline the process for staking mineral claims and establishing mineral rights. Regulations in that act also establish the Mining Recorder's Office, the body responsible for recording claims and issuing prospecting licences and permits.
The Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board will make access orders related only to terms, conditions, and compensation only after such rights have been issued, and only after an access agreement cannot be negotiated by the parties and one or both have made proper application to the board.
This leads me to how the board will deal with the applications it receives. As l've stated already, a proponent of resource development would have a right of access granted under an act of Parliament, such as the Canada Petroleum Resources Act. If the right of access is subject to consent of a landowner, such as a designated organization on aboriginal-owned land, the proponent must negotiate for access with the landowner as holder of surface rights.
If the two parties cannot reach an agreement after negotiations, either of them may apply to the board for an access order. The board will review the application to ensure that in accordance with board rules, the parties have attempted to resolve the matter in dispute by negotiation in good faith, and the application is within its jurisdiction. If the application is within its jurisdiction and negotiations between the two parties have been conducted or attempted in good faith, the board will be required to accept the application.
In accordance with proposed section 42, the board will convene a panel of three members to hear the application, unless the parties consent to a one-member panel. A one-member panel could be requested by the parties if an accelerated process is desired.
The panel will conduct a hearing and then issue an access order. The panel is required to take into account any factors and materials it considers relevant when it sets out terms, conditions, and compensation. When determining terms and conditions, the panel may include any that are appropriate to minimize damage to or the peaceful enjoyment of land.
With respect to compensation, the panel considers factors such as market value, loss of use, cultural attachment, effects on wildlife harvesting, damage, nuisance, and inconvenience.
After receiving an order, a proponent is able to exercise its right of access in a manner consistent with the terms and conditions set out in the order and any other requirements set out in other acts of Parliament or land claim agreements.
A party to an order is also permitted to apply to the board for a review. During the review, the board has the authority to amend an order in an appropriate manner if it determines that a material change in the facts or circumstances relating to the order has occurred.
Keep in mind that the board is the final decision-maker. No mechanism exists to enable parties to appeal an order. However, orders of the board may always be judicially reviewed by a court.
An order of the board may also be made an order of the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories once a certified copy of it is filed with the court, making it enforceable in the same way an order of the court is.
That's how the specific provisions of Bill C-47 will apply in the Northwest Territories, Mr. Chairman.
I want to conclude by emphasizing that Bill C-47 will not create or take away any rights or create an additional arbitration process. It will simply replace arbitration measures related to access that were intended as interim measures in land claim agreements. It will provide a single board and a well-defined process for resolving access disputes in the Northwest Territories. Bill C-47 is consistent with the applicable land claim agreements, and the process it establishes will be, and will be perceived as, fair and equitable.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.