Evidence of meeting #125 for Natural Resources in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was communities.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Christopher Duschenes  Acting Assistant Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services Canada, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Naina Sloan  Senior Executive Director, Indigenous Partnerships Office - West, Department of Natural Resources
Tracy Sletto  Executive Vice-President, Transparency and Strategic Engagement, National Energy Board
Terence Hubbard  Vice-President, Operations, Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency
Kent Hehr  Calgary Centre, Lib.
Robert Steedman  Chief Environment Officer, National Energy Board
Garnett Genuis  Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, CPC
Jeff Labonté  Assistant Deputy Minister, Major Projects Management Office, Department of Natural Resources
Cathay Wagantall  Yorkton—Melville, CPC

3:35 p.m.


The Chair Liberal James Maloney

Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome back. Thank you for joining us today.

This is the first day of a new study, which will be very interesting, on international best practices for engaging with indigenous communities regarding major energy projects.

We have four groups of witnesses today. I assume I don't need to explain the committee procedure. Is that correct? All right, I can omit that part of my speech.

Perhaps we can jump right in.

For committee members, we're going to hear from all four witness groups, one after the other, then we're going straight into questions. We're not going to break it out into first hour and second hour like we usually do. We will be done no later than 5:15 p.m., unless anybody strenuously objects to that and wants to go longer.

I suggest that we hear from our witnesses in the order in which they are listed on the agenda.

We will start with the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

The floor is yours.

3:35 p.m.

Christopher Duschenes Acting Assistant Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services Canada, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Thank you very much.

3:35 p.m.


The Chair Liberal James Maloney

Sorry. Each group has up to 10 minutes, with the emphasis on “up to”.

3:35 p.m.

Acting Assistant Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services Canada, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Christopher Duschenes

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

My name is Christopher Duschenes. I am the acting Assistant Deputy Minister, Lands and Economic Development, at the departments of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada and Indigenous Services Canada.

I am pleased to be here this afternoon. Thank you for welcoming me to the unceded territory of the Algonquin People and for the opportunity to speak.

I would like to offer some perspectives from Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada and Indigenous Services Canada on overall best practices for engaging with indigenous communities and how other countries turn to Canada as a leader in indigenous consultation.

My colleagues here at the table with me will then speak to you about how they carry out this engagement with respect to major energy projects.

Canada is taking a whole-of-government approach to co-development with indigenous partners to pursue meaningful two-way dialogue. We believe that collaboration is key to achieving enhanced outcomes for the benefit of indigenous communities and the country as a whole.

The Crown's relationship with indigenous communities does not begin when a proponent submits a project proposal. A respectful and meaningful dialogue should be established with the indigenous communities most affected by a potential project as early as possible. Early engagement is key to better outcomes overall for everyone.

There are both legal and moral obligations when it comes to working in partnership in co-development. This includes a mix of what must be done and what makes sense to be done to achieve a desired outcome in a respectful way that is based on joint principles of engagement. When the Crown is undertaking an activity that may adversely affect asserted or established aboriginal or treaty right, such as an energy project, the legal duty to consult and, where appropriate, accommodate indigenous groups comes into play. The duty stems from the honour of the Crown and is derived from section 35 of Canada's Constitution Act, 1982, which recognizes and affirms aboriginal and treaty rights.

Consultation requires good faith efforts and a commitment to meaningful process by both government and the indigenous groups whose rights may be adversely impacted. It must always include consideration of accommodation measures. The role of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs as well as the role of Indigenous Services Canada is complex in this context, and we work directly with indigenous groups while providing guidance as well as tools and advice to support agencies and other federal departments in fulfilling their obligations.

Government officials have to lead by example. The government has indicated that it will fulfill its commitments to implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I will point you particularly to article 28 in the context of economic rights and natural resources. Our engagement is guided by principles respecting the Government of Canada's relationship with indigenous people. I'm sure you've heard of those principles. There are 10 of those principles, and I would like to highlight only four of them at the moment.

The Government of Canada recognizes, in principle number four, that indigenous self-government is part of Canada's evolving system of co-operative federalism and distinct orders of government.

Principle number five is that treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements between indigenous people and the Crown have been or are intended to be acts of reconciliation based on mutual recognition and respect.

Principle number six, meaningful engagement with indigenous people, aims to secure their free, prior and informed consent when Canada proposes to take actions that impact them and their rights on their lands, territories and resources.

Finally, of the 10 principles, one I would like to highlight is number eight, and it is very relevant to this study, I believe. Reconciliation and self-government require a renewed fiscal relationship developed in collaboration with indigenous nations that promotes a mutually supportive climate for economic partnership and resource development.

In these principles, the Government of Canada acknowledges its commitments to a renewed nation-to-nation, government-to-government and Inuit-Crown relationship that builds on and goes beyond the legal duty to consult. Therefore, while meeting the legal obligations to consult is a must, the Crown-indigenous relationship must move beyond that. Building relationships and trust is absolutely key.

We have found that in complex horizontal consultations there are strong benefits to building teams of officials from the various departments and agencies involved to ensure that information and issues are brought back to those involved and to build an integrated federal response to issues raised during the consultations.

The economic pathways partnership, EPP, brings departments together to make it easier for indigenous groups to access federal economic development programs and services. It is meant to complement the actions being taken by project proponents to support indigenous participation in economic opportunities associated with projects such as the Trans Mountain expansion and Line 3.

With this initiative, the Government of Canada is seeking to develop and deliver a whole-of-government approach to existing federal economic development programs to more effectively respond to the needs of indigenous communities, businesses and organizations. This initiative provides a single point of contact within government, making it easier for indigenous communities, organizations and businesses to be involved in consultation. Our partners have indicated strong support for the EPP approach so far.

We've also found that early engagement and collaboration with provinces, proponents and territories make a big difference. Proponents are key to realizing opportunities in the energy sector. Companies such as Suncor and TransCanada have been pioneers both in hiring indigenous employees and in creating wealth in indigenous communities.

Enhancing capacity also makes a big difference to the overall outcome. Negotiations can be costly and lengthy. It is therefore important to support indigenous groups with the costs associated with negotiations related to economic opportunities, whether those opportunities are identified through official consultations or not.

CIRNAC's and ISC's community opportunity readiness program, CORP, provides project-based funding for first nations and Inuit communities for a range of activities that support economic opportunities. The program can help finance the cash equity the indigenous partner needs to implement a green energy project, for example. Being able to buy shares in certain projects or for businesses to enable first nations to be involved in the management, training, work creation and access to revenue in their communities is supported by CORP.

As an example, the regional CORP budget has provided funding to the Tarquti Energy Corporation, which is a joint venture between the two main economic development organizations in Nunavik, in Arctic Quebec: la Fédération des coopératives du Nouveau-Québec, FCNQ, and Makivik Corporation, the land claim manager. This project aims to move 14 Inuit communities in Nunavik off diesel generators to renewable energy. Various federal departments are collaborating in this initiative alongside the Government of Quebec and Hydro-Québec.

The participant funding program is also worth mentioning. We supported other federal departments in providing participant funding to indigenous groups to enable them to participate in the government's review of environmental and regulatory processes.

To recap, building relationships and trust are key components of meaningful and successful engagement. Some of the ways one can do this are by engaging as early as possible in the decision-making process, by enhancing the capacity of indigenous groups to participate in consultations and negotiations, and by sharing benefits with the community.

I thank you again for the opportunity to speak today. I will now turn to my colleagues from Natural Resources Canada to give their perspective and some specific examples related to projects.

3:40 p.m.


The Chair Liberal James Maloney

That's perfect. Thank you.

Whoever is going to speak on behalf of the Department of Natural Resources, please go ahead.

3:45 p.m.

Naina Sloan Senior Executive Director, Indigenous Partnerships Office - West, Department of Natural Resources

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

My name is Naina Sloan. I'm the Senior Executive Director of the Indigenous Partnerships Office - West at Natural Resources Canada.

I would like to start by acknowledging the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin people and by thanking you for this opportunity to address members of the committee as you begin your study on international best practices for engaging indigenous communities on major energy projects. It's timely and important work, and it's certainly top of mind for us every day at Natural Resources Canada, or NRCan, as we deliver on the government's commitment to advance reconciliation and renew Canada's relationship with indigenous peoples.

I hope to illustrates that with some specific examples, but I would first like to introduce my colleague Jeff Labonté, who is the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Major Projects Management Office at Natural Resources Canada.

Jeff is joining us today because of his expertise on major resource projects and how these projects directly affect indigenous communities.

Natural Resources Canada is responsible for forestry, mining, energy and land-related sciences and geospatial information. We have labs and regional offices spread across Canada staffed with scientists and a variety of program officials.

Work in our department involves collaboration with provincial and territorial partners, universities, industry and indigenous communities.

At NRCan it is paramount that this work includes recognizing indigenous peoples' unique connections to the land and resources and their unique perspectives, knowledge and interests in major natural resource projects. While major resource projects can be controversial, they can also be a place where best practices emerge and reconciliation is advanced.

Consider forestry, where we have, for example, a history of collaborating with indigenous peoples. This sector is an important generator of jobs, particularly in rural and remote parts of the country. We are innovating together in the forest sector to build a cleaner future. For example, with federal support a Tsay Keh Dene Nation-owned company is working to assess the feasibility of using biomass to generate heat and power on their land. Once completed, this project would be among the first of its kind to heat and power an indigenous community in British Columbia.

If we think about energy, for example, through the clean energy for rural and remote communities program, CERRC, we are collaborating with indigenous communities as they advance renewable energy and capacity-building projects to reduce their reliance on diesel. For example, CERRC is supporting an energy literacy skills and training program for youth from 22 remote first nations in Ontario aimed at connecting them to jobs related to the Watay transmission project.

Of course, there is mining, where indigenous peoples account for 12% of the labour force, making this the second-highest proportional employer of indigenous peoples among private sector employers in Canada.

Then there is the science and traditional knowledge that informs what we do. In all of this our natural resources and indigenous communities are closely connected.

NRCan continues to make progress in working with indigenous partners. We're guided in this by, of course, our Constitution, the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and evolving jurisprudence.

Natural Resources Canada's mandate priorities reinforce this as well, to ensure Canada's resource sector remains a source of jobs, prosperity and opportunity, and meets the core responsibility to help get our resources to market.

I will now focus on three ways in which we are engaging with indigenous peoples: first, by building strong relationships; second, finding better ways to advance our shared interests; and third, sharing information and knowledge as a way of increasing our capacity to work together.

On building relationships, early and ongoing engagement is an important foundation for our work with indigenous peoples. It allows us to find opportunities to collaborate, identify issues of interest or concern, and enable greater indigenous participation. For example, our department is leading the way on including indigenous leadership in federal, provincial and territorial fora such as the Energy and Mines Ministers' Conference and the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers.

Indigenous leadership is also included in international delegations, such as Canada's recent trade missions to Mexico and India.

We are ensuring indigenous voices are heard domestically in initiatives such as Generation Energy, which was the single-largest dialogue on energy in Canadian history.

We are also targeting investments through programs such as the indigenous forestry initiative, which supports indigenous-led economic development in the forestry sector.

We have piloted community-driven engagement efforts in British Columbia and Alberta to address indigenous priorities related to west coast energy infrastructure. This initiative provided the capacity for engagement between federal officials and indigenous communities on energy infrastructure projects. Our goal was to identify issues of concern to communities and take concrete actions to address indigenous interests related to jobs and economic growth, environmental action, fish habitat restoration, and engagement. Building relationships has been key to all of this work.

The second area we're focused on is finding better ways to advance shared interests. This means moving beyond early engagement to co-development. We have found that joint leadership and co-design offer a more certain path to identifying shared interests and enabling diverse parties to work together. Here are a couple of concrete examples: We are working with indigenous communities to create Impact Canada's off-diesel initiative, building healthier, greener and more energy-resilient communities. We also co-developed the indigenous advisory and monitoring committees, IAMCs, to oversee the Trans Mountain expansion and Line 3 projects.

As part of the IAMCs, we co-developed indigenous monitoring pilot projects, which enabled indigenous monitors to work alongside inspectors from federal regulators during site visits and inspections. The pilots resulted in frameworks that detail how federal regulators can incorporate indigenous perspectives and observations into their compliance verification activities.

This process of sharing perspectives and interests, planning together, testing new approaches, debriefing and then refining frameworks together has resulted in indigenous monitors and NEB inspectors, for example, being able to work together in ways that otherwise would not have been possible. In the words of our indigenous partners, these pilots are putting indigenous boots on the ground and protecting the lands and waters.

The third area I'll speak to is sharing information and knowledge. Here, for example, the geomapping for energy and minerals program bridges western science and indigenous traditional knowledge. It does this by including local indigenous peoples in field studies and in developing innovative approaches that support economic growth and job creation. By sharing perspectives, interests, knowledge and approaches, we've found new ways of working together.

Before I close, you may be interested to know that many of the actions and activities that I've just shared with you are of great interest to other jurisdictions.

For example, through the Canada-Mexico Partnership, the Mexican government requested support from experts within our department to inform their development of new legislation around mining and indigenous consultation.

Representatives of the Chilean government visited Ottawa in September 2018 to discuss indigenous consultations, in the context of major project reviews and engagement with indigenous peoples, and are now looking to establish a model based on Natural Resources Canada's approach.

Natural Resources Canada is changing how we work with indigenous peoples in all resource sectors by creating lasting relationships that respect and recognize their rights.

We are supporting early indigenous engagement, co-developing new ways of working together and strengthening our capacity to learn and act on our shared interests.

Finally, Natural Resources Canada is committed to continuing to deepen this engagement with indigenous communities on major resource projects.

I thank you for your attention and look forward to your questions.

3:50 p.m.


The Chair Liberal James Maloney

Thank you very much.

We'll now go to the NEB. The floor is yours.

3:50 p.m.

Tracy Sletto Executive Vice-President, Transparency and Strategic Engagement, National Energy Board

Good afternoon, Mr. Chair, and committee members.

I would like to begin by acknowledging that we are meeting on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishnaabeg People.

I would also like to thank the Standing Committee on Natural Resources for inviting us to participate in your study of international best practices for engaging with indigenous communities with respect to major energy projects.

My name is Tracy Sletto. I am the National Energy Board's Executive Vice-President for Transparency and Strategic Engagement. With me today is Dr. Robert Steedman, Chief Environment Officer.

The NEB welcomes the opportunity to contribute to this study. Indigenous engagement continues to be an important part of our Canadian public discourse about energy projects. It has long been important to the NEB, as Canada's life-cycle regulator of energy projects, and is one of our core areas of focus. The NEB's approach to indigenous engagement is guided by the feedback and input from indigenous communities and people with whom we work, by domestic best practices and by Canadian law. We continually welcome any and all opportunity to learn more about international best practices in this area.

The NEB works to build relationships with indigenous peoples based on mutual respect and recognition of indigenous people's rights. Our approach is intended to be co-operative and respectful, ensuring indigenous rights are respected. The NEB's indigenous engagement activities have been evolving over the years. In the past we have focused on supporting indigenous participation during the regulatory application and public hearing phase for projects. We've heard from many indigenous people that they have concerns about these processes and we've been actively working to improve them.

More recently, our commitment to an enhanced indigenous engagement continues throughout the operational life cycle of the energy projects we regulate. We know that engagement with indigenous groups throughout the full life cycle of a project leads to better regulatory outcomes for all Canadians, including enhanced safety and environmental protection outcomes.

I would like to highlight the NEB's indigenous engagement activities and approach, talk about some of the more innovative initiatives under way and then turn to the future of indigenous engagement at the NEB.

The NEB requires companies to engage early in their project planning with indigenous groups that are potentially impacted by a project and respond to those concerns in their project design. We know that early and informal resolution of issues is preferable to more formal adjudication processes, and we are actively working to help facilitate and support early issue identification and resolution.

Once a company applies to us for approval to build a project, we reach out to indigenous groups that may be impacted and offer to meet to talk about the role of the NEB and share information about our hearing processes. More recently, we have started to explore ways to work with indigenous people and stakeholders to help design the hearing process. For example, this month the NEB convened a workshop of indigenous peoples, NEB staff and the proponent of a major energy project to identify hearing process design options that best meet the needs of affected indigenous communities. From this early engagement phase right through to a decision or a recommendation report, the NEB seeks to ensure that issues and concerns to indigenous communities are heard and reflected in the decision-making process.

The NEB strives to make its regulatory processes as accessible as possible to indigenous peoples. We have dedicated staff who work specifically with indigenous communities to ensure that they are informed and aware of these processes and that we can incorporate indigenous knowledge in our decision-making. In addition, indigenous peoples have an oral tradition of sharing information and knowledge from generation to generation and we understand that this information cannot always be shared adequately in writing as part of the hearing process. The NEB actively offers indigenous hearing participants the opportunity to provide oral traditional evidence, or OTE.

The NEB attempts to accommodate indigenous participants, including with respect to timing and location for OTE. For example, OTE has been heard at sacred sites, in gathering centres, as part of traditional feasts and in special locations within indigenous communities. We have also included cultural protocols of indigenous intervenors such as pipe or smudge ceremonies and traditional drumming, and feeding the fire ceremonies in our northern hearings and meetings.

The NEB has a long history of providing comprehensive reasons for its decisions and recommendations. Indigenous communities have told us that they want to see their specific issues and concerns reflected in our reports, with clear references as to how those concerns were addressed or mitigated. We've responded by changing how we write our reports, targeting a broader public audience and including information specific to the issues raised by each affected indigenous community. Summary tables of the general and specific concerns and issues raised by indigenous peoples are now included.

The NEB is encouraged by the success of the indigenous advisory and monitoring committees for the Trans Mountain and Line 3 pipelines. In the months that the IAMCs have been in place, trained independent indigenous monitors have accompanied NEB inspection officers on the majority of our 35 inspections for those projects. We have included indigenous monitors in our evaluation and oversight of companies' emergency management exercises, as well as in work to co-develop policies, procedures, processes and training for joint monitoring activities.

Both NEB staff and indigenous monitors have agreed that this has been a very valuable learning experience. Working collaboratively with indigenous monitors and incorporating indigenous perspectives significantly assist the NEB in our efforts to prevent harm and support the country's commitment to reconciliation with indigenous peoples. The NEB will continue to actively support the IAMCs and integrate indigenous perspectives in our work, including emergency management.

The NEB and IAMCs share a common goal of environmental protection, safety, information transparency and taking meaningful steps to address the concerns of local communities. Co-creating opportunities to advance these goals is giving rise to real benefits and driving a shift in how the NEB integrates indigenous knowledge into our regulatory programs.

The NEB is building our engagement capacity to work effectively with indigenous communities and advance reconciliation, informed and guided by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action. The NEB is working to provide all staff with indigenous cultural competency training and specifically targeting more in-depth indigenous awareness training for staff who work directly with indigenous peoples. We are committed to increasing indigenous employment and improving retention by focusing on increasing the number of indigenous employees working in key areas.

The NEB will also create policies, guidance, processes and governance structures that support board-wide engagement with indigenous peoples. We will continue to rely on the advice and support of indigenous people, including NEB indigenous staff, to improve our hiring and retention strategies. We will better incorporate the advice and support of indigenous elders and seek to increase indigenous representation in our leadership and governance structures.

Within our energy information mandate, the NEB is incorporating information about indigenous communities as part of the NEB's interactive pipeline map, which is available to the public on our website. Last fall, the map was updated to include information about indigenous reserves and treaties, which will enable people to more clearly see where pipelines intersect with indigenous communities and lands.

A key element of our success depends on our ability to integrate indigenous engagement best practices into how we work every day. To that end, we have established engagement as one of our four core responsibilities in our departmental results framework. We have set performance outcomes and expectations for ourselves as a regulator and are committed to continually improving that performance. Much of that engagement performance will be measured by the feedback from indigenous people, and we report our progress and our issues openly and transparently.

We are making changes to our management system to allow us to more effectively work with indigenous peoples. This includes ensuring that we have ways to incorporate and reflect indigenous perspectives in our work and by having ways to share and reflect the feedback we receive in improvement to our processes, policies and regulatory framework.

To conclude, the NEB is committed to creating opportunities for engagement between the NEB and indigenous peoples and stakeholders that enable people to listen to each other, ask questions, learn, share perspectives, collaborate and inform improvement to our regulatory work. We know that indigenous participation strengthens the NEB's life-cycle oversight by providing additional perspectives on the impact of construction and the operation of pipelines and related infrastructure on indigenous communities, the environment, as well as historical and cultural resources. We are continually seeking ways to connect, receive feedback and exchange information with indigenous peoples and are committed to trying new things, to work closely with indigenous people, to innovate, to adapt and adopt best practices. Ideally, we will be part of a made in Canada effort to design and demonstrate these best practices.

Our work in indigenous engagement is an ongoing, long-term effort and we know we are not there yet. We are continually learning and we will keep working hard to advance reconciliation with indigenous peoples within the NEB mandate by investing in meaningful and enduring relationships with indigenous peoples from coast to coast to coast.

Thank you, Mr. Chair, for hearing from us today.

4 p.m.


The Chair Liberal James Maloney

Thank you very much.

Mr. Hubbard, you're last but not least.

4 p.m.

Terence Hubbard Vice-President, Operations, Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency

Good afternoon.

My name is Terence Hubbard and I am the Vice-President of Operations at the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you today about the agency's experience in consulting with indigenous groups.

In my presentation, I will highlight our enhanced approach to consultation under Bill C-69, and I will describe recent innovative approaches we are undertaking with indigenous communities.

As the committee is aware, the federal environmental assessment process has been undergoing legislative review since 2016 when the Minister of Environment and Climate Change established an expert panel to review the federal environmental assessment process. Since January 2016, and until such time that a new legislative framework is in place, the federal government has been guided by an interim approach that includes principles and plans for major projects to inform decision-making. The interim principles include a commitment that decisions will be based on science, traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and other relevant evidence, and that indigenous peoples will be meaningfully consulted and, where appropriate, accommodated where potential impacts on rights may occur.

ln February 2018, the government proposed legislation in Bill C-69 that would repeal the current environmental assessment legislation and introduce a new impact assessment process for major projects. The process for developing this bill was based on extensive consultations, including with indigenous peoples, industry, provinces and territories, for more than 14 months. At present, external discussions are ongoing regarding the development of regulations contemplated under the proposed impact assessment act and policies that will support the agency's new roles and responsibilities.

Our assessment process will also help us achieve the objectives underpinning the principles respecting the Government of Canada's relationship with indigenous peoples by exploring approaches and mechanisms aimed at ensuring that indigenous peoples and their governments have a role in public decision-making as part of Canada's constitutional framework, and to ensure that indigenous rights, interests and aspirations are recognized in our decision-making.

ln order to realize these broad legal requirements and government commitments, the Government of Canada integrates consultations into the assessment process to the greatest extent possible in order to facilitate opportunities for exchange of indigenous knowledge and technical information. The courts in Canada have reinforced this integrated approach as an appropriate mechanism for carrying out the duty to consult. Over time, however, the courts have also indicated areas for improvement. The Government of Canada is constantly working to ensure that court decisions and the views of indigenous groups regarding the assessment process and proposed projects are taken into account as part of our decision-making.

lt's expected that this integration model will continue to be the model under the proposed impact assessment act, with modifications to the process to better include indigenous groups and reflect their interests. Under the proposed act, there would be early and regular consultation with indigenous peoples, and indigenous traditional knowledge would be mandatory to consider, along with other sources of science and evidence to inform decision-making.

The proposed act also strives to work towards securing consent by developing a more collaborative and inclusive process based on mutual respect and dialogue. Specific examples of how we have reflected this in the proposed impact assessment act include the requirement to consider potential impacts on the rights of indigenous peoples on matters such as whether to designate a project for assessment, as well as the determination of whether adverse impacts of a designated project are in the public interest. The proposed legislation would also create new space for indigenous jurisdictions to exercise powers under the act related to the conduct of impact assessments.

As practitioners in consultation, the agency has learned that a cornerstone of our best practice in consulting with indigenous groups to date is being collaborative, in addition to respecting indigenous-led processes and knowledge. One recent example is the proposed Blackwater gold project in B.C., where the agency is consulting with 10 indigenous groups including the Lhoosk'uz Dené Nation, the Ulkatcho First Nation and Carrier Sekani First Nation.

The agency is working collaboratively with these nations towards consensus on conclusions with respect to the project's impacts on indigenous rights. This approach is supported in part by a memorandum of understanding that the agency signed in 2016 with the Lhoosk'uz Dené Nation, Ulkatcho First Nation and the Province of B.C.

The MOU includes a commitment that parties will collaboratively draft sections of the environmental assessment relating to effects on these nations and will work towards consensus on measures to address the potential effects of the project on the rights of the signatory indigenous groups. Integrating consultation into the environmental assessment process also provides for the consideration of impacts on rights, which can directly influence decision-making with respect to whether a project should be approved.

For example, in December 2017, an environmental assessment of the proposed Ajax mine in B.C. found that the project would likely have significant adverse environmental effects and cumulative effects on physical and cultural heritage and the current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes by the Stk'emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation. Throughout the environmental assessment, the agency engaged in deep consultation with the SSN through face-to-face meetings and exchanges of information. The agency took into consideration indigenous knowledge and their own assessment of the project's potential impacts on their rights, which were reflected in the environmental assessment report. In June 2018, the Governor in Council found that these effects were not justified in the circumstances and therefore this specific project, as proposed, could not proceed.

I have one final example: The agency recently co-developed a methodology with the Mikisew Cree First Nation to assess the potential impacts on aboriginal and treaty rights of a proposed oil sands mine in Alberta. The collaborative approach in the development of this methodology is based on the combination of expertise within the agency in the domain of environmental assessment methodology and the expertise of the Mikisew in culture and rights studies. The application of this methodology not only provides for fulsome consideration of rights and culture in a manner that reflects the Mikisew's perspective, but its early application in the process has led to a more informed discussion regarding potential accommodation measures.

The methodology is currently being contemplated in the context of guidance related to the proposed act. The agency and the Mikisew Cree will be co-presenting this methodology on an international stage this coming April at the International Association for Impact Assessment in Brisbane, Australia. The co-development of this methodology demonstrates how effective partnerships with indigenous peoples can lead to a better-informed process. It also demonstrates how to set the foundation for positive changes in our relationships with indigenous peoples.

As we go forward, there will no doubt be further opportunities to develop even more collaborative and inclusive approaches with indigenous groups.

Thank you for your time today. We look forward to your questions.

4:10 p.m.


The Chair Liberal James Maloney

Thank you very much to all of our witnesses.

Mr. Hehr, you are going to start us off.

4:10 p.m.

Kent Hehr Calgary Centre, Lib.

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to all of our guests here this afternoon.

This is going to be a very informative study, a very in-depth study with competing principles and viewpoints as to how to build a better system, one that allows for indigenous knowledge to be incorporated into our major energy projects. The study will also include varying viewpoints on how we balance rights and the environment and how all those issues are interplayed at various stages along the way.

Nevertheless, the question I have to start with is for Ms. Sletto.

You indicated that the NEB is changing their ways on early intervention and allowing that process to happen up front. Can you tell me how this differs from the current lay of the land and what you guys will be looking at? What will be incorporated into this measure?

4:10 p.m.

Executive Vice-President, Transparency and Strategic Engagement, National Energy Board

Tracy Sletto

Certainly. Thank you for that question.

I will start by acknowledging that our efforts to improve our early engagement with both indigenous peoples and stakeholders in our adjudication processes have been under way for some time. We've really been intensifying those efforts in recent months and years. We're focused very much on issues resolution as an outcome. We are specifically looking at proactive measures to ensure that participants in all of our processes have the information they need to participate effectively. We also want to ensure they are able to work earlier in an informal issues resolution context rather than through the more formal mechanisms that come with a formal adjudication process.

I will turn to my colleague, Dr. Steedman. He is definitely able to speak to some specifics about what we do in early engagement. There are quite a few innovations we would love to highlight.

4:10 p.m.

Dr. Robert Steedman Chief Environment Officer, National Energy Board

Thank you very much.

I would note that we've learned, in about the last 10 years since the National Energy Board started having oral traditional evidence sessions with elders and knowledge keepers, often early in our hearings, and accommodating a variety of cultural protocols and mechanisms, to be more respectful. Tracy mentioned some of those in her opening statement. A really key thing for us—and this is looking to the future—is that it's extremely important to develop those relationships in advance. With a federally regulated energy infrastructure thousands of kilometres across the country, and this infrastructure lasting for decades—50 to 60 years in some cases—this is the time frame in which relationships must be developed and maintained. We see that a lot of the early efforts have been focused on projects. That is how we have been doing things. We're learning quickly, but in fact I think the indigenous interest is more of a territorial interest, because many indigenous territories may have five or six lines, federally regulated pipelines, just as one example, so they're interested in those lines and in the safe operation and in a meaningful engagement with the Crown and the federal regulator on the same scale. It goes on for decades. We're at the front end of that and we're investing in it. Those two things together will get us in a better place.

4:10 p.m.

Calgary Centre, Lib.

Kent Hehr

Thank you for that answer.

My question is for Mr. Duschenes.

You went into an excellent synopsis of the duty to consult, what it means and what it stems from, the treaties initially signed. It's enshrined in our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, through section 35, and has made its way through the courts in many forms and fashions. I wonder if your organization, your department, has changed its approach or what it's learned from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation et al. v. Canada decision. Has that augmented your knowledge and changed your approach? What does that decision mean with regard to the way we go forward on projects, in your view?

4:10 p.m.

Acting Assistant Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services Canada, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Christopher Duschenes

I can't speak directly to the Tsleil-Waututh decision but, what is very clear.... I have been with the department now for almost 22 years, and worked for the Government of the Northwest Territories before that as well. What has been very interesting in the evolution of duty to consult and accommodate is that now, although I mentioned it in my remarks, it is much more about partnership. There is indeed, yes, a legal duty to consult and accommodate, but we have found over the years, as a result of court decisions through which the bar keeps being raised, but also as a result of good partnership and trying to get to yes, or trying to get to a mutually satisfactory answer, that really working early on in partnership and being guided by the legal duty to consult and accommodate is important, but really going beyond that to develop partnerships early on that are based on trying to attain benefits for all is really what's guiding us.

The last thing I'll say is that certainly as different court cases are settled, we are continuously as a department—and this is more on the Crown-indigenous relations side, and not the indigenous services side—challenged through our consultation accommodation unit to be updating our guidance and providing a real-time approach and guidance to other departments and agencies about what the best way to proceed is. We have certainly found that sticking to the letter of the law with a fairly broad interpretation has not necessarily gotten us to the outcomes we were seeking.

4:15 p.m.

Calgary Centre, Lib.

Kent Hehr

That brings me to Ms. Sloan.

You brought up the concept of shared interests. I believe Mr. Duschenes sort of came with that too. Are you getting close to being able to evaluate these best practices to come up with economic interests and models that work with indigenous partnerships on energy projects, sharing best practices and the like? Have you been able to work out a system that looks at how to develop those partnerships right at the outset to see how we can mutually have benefit for both an energy project or the like with indigenous partners?

4:15 p.m.

Senior Executive Director, Indigenous Partnerships Office - West, Department of Natural Resources

Naina Sloan

Thank you very much for that question.

I think, absolutely, that we have been doing our best to work differently in the space and to evolve our approaches. In particular, I would highlight that some of the work we are doing with the indigenous advisory and monitoring committees, as well as through the economic pathways partnership program, which Mr. Duschenes also mentioned, are two examples.

With respect to the focus on shared interests, again what we find is that doing that as early as possible in processes through early engagement prior to, for example, regulatory processes even beginning or getting under way is the best way to build the relationships that allow us to explore those shared interests and to determine what those interests are, how to respond to them and how to build those partnerships from an economic perspective.

4:15 p.m.


The Chair Liberal James Maloney

Thank you. I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to stop you there.

4:15 p.m.

Calgary Centre, Lib.

Kent Hehr

Okay, sorry.

4:15 p.m.


The Chair Liberal James Maloney

No, it's okay.

Mr. Genuis.

4:15 p.m.

Garnett Genuis Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, CPC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

It was a surprise for me to hear one of the witnesses say that Bill C-69 was the product of consultation with indigenous people. I think it's fairly well known that the National Coalition of Chiefs, the Indian Resource Council, the Eagle Spirit Chiefs Council and a majority of Treaty 7 first nations all opposed Bill C-69. In fact, the more than 30 first nations that compose the Eagle Spirit Chiefs Council say they're going to take the government to court over Bill C-69 because it would make it “impossible to complete a project” and because it would remove the standing test that could lead to foreign interests overriding the interests of aboriginal title holders.

I'll share a few other quotes with you.

Roy Fox, chief of the Blood Tribe First Nation and former CEO of the Indian Resource Council, says Bill C-69 will have a “devastating impact on our ability to support our community members”.

Steve Buffalo, the president and CEO of the Indian Resource Council, says:

Indigenous communities are on the verge of a major economic breakthrough, one that finally allows Indigenous people to share in Canada's economic prosperity. Bill C-69 will stop this progress in its tracks.

I have some comments, which maybe I will share later on, from indigenous leaders who are deeply critical of some of these other government decisions shutting down progress in terms of energy projects.

The general question I want to ask is this. Of course all of us here agree about the importance of a duty to consult and to engage when a project is going forward. Is there a duty to consult indigenous communities when those communities have put time, resources and money into a project going forward and then a government policy stops that progress from being put forward? Is there a duty to consult if indigenous communities are trying to move forward the development of a project and the government puts in place policies to stop that progress? Is there a duty to consult in that case?

The question is for whoever is interested in responding.

4:20 p.m.

Vice-President, Operations, Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency

Terence Hubbard

I think, as Chris noted in his comments earlier on, the Crown's duty to consult is triggered any time it's taking a decision that could impact on an aboriginal community's rights and interests.

4:20 p.m.

Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, CPC

Garnett Genuis

Okay. So any time the government makes a decision to introduce policy that stops projects from going forward, in your view, Mr. Hubbard, that would trigger a duty to consult as well.

4:20 p.m.

Vice-President, Operations, Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency

Terence Hubbard

Again, it would link back specifically to potential impacts on rights and interests of that indigenous community.