Canada's Original Think Tank

Consultation by the Government with First Nations

Consultation by the Government with First Nations

Consultation by the Government with First Nations

Hon. Sandra M. Lovelace Nicholas: 

My question is for the minister.

As you know, there is a Supreme Court order to consult with all First Nations on all issues that concern their interests. Some First Nations have said they have not been properly consulted on the Kinder Morgan expansion in B.C. These lands are unceded, and the First Nations living on these lands only want to protect the land, which is their birthright, and want to save their food source.

Why is the government not consulting all First Nations caught in the middle of this controversy? And, minister, where are the documents First Nations are asking for to prove that consultation took place?

Hon. Carolyn Bennett, P.C., M.P., Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs: Thank you very much for the question. I think it’s really important in this transition period we’re in. We’ve inherited certain projects from a previous government, but we also want to move forward in a new way that Minister Carr and Minister McKenna have described where Indigenous people would be involved at the earliest possible moment of the idea of a project in much the same way as it is done in the North. It is really important that traditional knowledge, practices and understanding are part of the beginning of any project.

Minister Carr has taken the issue of consultation and engagement with Indigenous people very seriously. Certainly, in what we have seen with the 43 impact and benefit agreements that have been signed by First Nations with Kinder Morgan, 33 of those being in British Columbia, those communities have obviously been very involved in the process to date.

I am concerned that just an impact and benefit agreement approach is not going to be the way we can go forward. Those are always secret agreements, and I think that as we move forward on resource revenue sharing and equity sharing with Indigenous communities, it’s going to be important that transparency and accountability are part of that conversation on resource revenue sharing.

To my mind, it is now imperative that we are also getting organized on the issue of nation rebuilding because, as we move forward on engagement, if nations can take a decision together as opposed to individual Indian Act bands taking different decisions, that will actually make it much easier.

As we’ve learned in the North with Senator Patterson, good projects can be approved early and bad projects can be rejected early so that you can move forward.

We’ve also seen that because this is the twinning of a pipeline and it isn’t going through a pristine, new environment, a lot of communities that, shall we say, would rather it hadn’t happened or that it wasn’t going to happen have also agreed to be part of developing the monitoring and the follow-up of the environmental concerns as we go forward. Even if they’ve not been involved from the beginning, they will be involved and have committed to being involved in the monitoring of this project.

I think this is a lesson, but we hope that as we move forward the kinds of decision-making processes that are in the North or in other places would be better.

The Nisga’a are very annoyed about the tanker ban because they have very special volcanic sand and had hoped for a pipeline through their nation. But with the tanker ban, they won’t be able to do what they had hoped for their community in terms of jobs.

There are a variety of opinions, and consensus is never unanimity, but we really do hope to work together with the nations going forward, and this new approach of Minister McKenna and Minister Carr will really insist that Indigenous people are involved at the earliest moment of a project.