- Aboriginal involvement in environmental assessments is necessary to understanding the potential impacts from major projects on Aboriginal rights and interests.
- The Environmental Assessment Office is committed to meaningfully engaging and working co-operatively with Aboriginal groups throughout the environmental assessment process on a government-to-government basis.
- B.C.’s environmental assessments provide significant opportunities for Aboriginal groups to identify potential effects from proposed major projects on their Aboriginal rights and interests, and to participate in the process to inform and improve projects.
- The Environmental Assessment Office is enhancing the environmental assessment process to provide additional opportunities for Aboriginal groups to engage in that process.
How the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office is collaborating with Aboriginal Groups:
- Through collaboration, the Environmental Assessment Office seeks to deepen engagement with Aboriginal groups, and is one way that British Columbia is demonstrating its commitment to reconciliation with First Nations.
- The flexibility of the Environmental Assessment Office's legislation allows the office to enhance its process and opportunities for Aboriginal groups without the need for legislative change.
- The Environmental Assessment Office is working with the First Nations Energy and Mining Council to develop a concept paper for enhancing the environmental assessment process. Feedback has been sought from First Nations, industry associations and stakeholders. The Environmental Assessment Office and the First Nations Energy and Mining Council currently anticipate completing a draft discussion paper containing specific recommendations for process enhancements in spring 2017.
- The Environmental Assessment Office and a number of Aboriginal groups are also working collaboratively to identify the best and most appropriate processes for Aboriginal concerns to be heard within the provincial environmental assessment process.
- For example, in the environmental assessment for the Kemess Underground Project, the Environmental Assessment Office worked collaboratively with the Tse Keh Nay First Nations to draft an assessment report that reflects consensus views on the approaches needed to avoid or mitigate potential effects on the Aboriginal rights and interests.
- The Environmental Assessment Office also entered into a collaborative agreement with the Stk’emlupsemc te Secwépemc Nation to ensure their information and interests are fully considered during the Province’s environmental assessment of the proposed Ajax Mine Project, which is currently still underway. The agreement provides the Stk’emlupsemc te Secwépemc Nation with an opportunity to have direct input into the provincial decision-making process, as their information and recommendations will be included in the documents submitted to ministers for decision.
- These collaboration initiatives are not one-size-fits-all; rather they are tailored to each project and the Aboriginal group(s) involved. The Environmental Assessment Office and Aboriginal groups work together to identify the best approach for collaboration given the characteristics of the proposed project and the needs of the Aboriginal group.
- Some examples of the characteristic these collaboration initiatives include:
- Working together on a government-to-government basis;
- Participating in a timely fashion;
- Resolving issues in an interest-based manner;
- Establishing a process that is fair, clear, neutrally administered, transparent and predictable;
- Seeking consensus on documents prepared for provincial and federal ministers about the potential adverse effects of a project on Aboriginal interests;
- Collaborating on the development of draft conditions that would be attached to approvals for a project; and
- Ensuring the effective, meaningful and ongoing participation of Aboriginal groups throughout the life of a project.
A role for Aboriginal groups in compliance activities:
- The role of the Environmental Assessment Office continues once a project has been approved, and so does involvement of Aboriginal groups.
- The Environmental Assessment Office provides opportunities for Aboriginal groups to be involved in compliance activities, including information sharing, training, participation in inspections, complaint reporting and response procedures.
- Opportunities to be involved in compliance activities are tailored to the priorities identified by Aboriginal groups and are specific to individual projects.
- BC government’s natural resource agencies, including the Environmental Assessment Office, have also developed a Natural Resource Sector Aboriginal Liaison Program. The pilot program provides funding and opportunities for Aboriginal groups to get valuable training and experience in oversight of natural resource development, including compliance, emergency management, and restoration.
Other opportunities for Aboriginal involvement in environmental assessments:
- While the Environmental Assessment Office is pleased to be working with Aboriginal groups to find new ways to collaborate, it builds on the many ways Aboriginal groups are able to meaningfully engage in our process today.
Did You Know?
- Aboriginal groups are invited to participate in the Environmental Assessment Office’s technical working group, along with federal, provincial and local government agencies. As members of the working group, Aboriginal groups help determine the scope and process of the review, change project designs, and shape the conditions that become part of environmental assessment certificates.
- Aboriginal groups review and contribute to key documents throughout an environmental assessment.
- The Environmental Assessment Office provides funding to help Aboriginal groups participate in environmental assessments.
- Aboriginal groups may submit their own independent report to Provincial ministers to consider when making their decision about whether to issue an environmental assessment certificate for a project.
For more information, please visit the Environmental Assessment Office’s website: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/environment/natural-resource-stewardship/consulting-with-first-nations/first-nations/proponents_guide_fn_consultation_environmental_assessment_process_dec2013.pdf