While we support the responsible development of natural gas and LNG, and the benefits that can mean for First Nations, decisions on development are, in the end, made by the First Nations themselves, and rightly so.
But that can be a thoroughly complicated process under the varying forms of First Nation governance: Who makes the decision? An elected band council? A hereditary chief, or chiefs? A referendum among band members? All or some of the above?
It’s even more complicated when we are not yet clear on how implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) will unfold in Canada.
We believe that UNDRIP can offer not a legalistic battlefield of rights, but an opportunity to implement in Canada the concept and long-overdue practice of “collaborative consent.”
You can read that collaborative concept into the important joint report we prepared with the BC Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resource on recommendations for the future of LNG projects and ongoing engagement with First Nations.
The report finds that there is “a high degree of support for LNG projects” among First Nations in BC, and notes: “If LNG projects are done in a way that respects First Nation interests, they will be the most safe, environmentally rigorous, and human rights-compliant projects in the world.”
Education, training, and “sustainable/long-term jobs instead of intense short-term labour opportunities” comprise a key issue among several explored in the report. In short: careers not jobs.
“Many First Nations view LNG projects as an important opportunity to improve poor socio-economic conditions in their communities. Employment and economic opportunities are required for communities to be sustainable and healthy.
“It cannot be overemphasized how the issues of employment and training are critical for these communities. Concerns were raised in relation to the type of jobs and training available to First Nations from proposed LNG projects.”
The report comes up with a number of suggestions in this vital area:
- Evaluate and consider renewing or expanding the $30-million Aboriginal Skills Development Fund, which has been successfully implemented.
- First Nations and governments should co-create more strategic skill development plans to target higher quality operational jobs.
- All parties should look for ways to enhance success through tools such as job matching, job coaching, and mentorship.
- BC should explore the creation of an LNG training facility in BC like the CATCH training facility operating in the UK – follow-up with Haisla should occur after their site visit to CATCH UK with local government, Kitimat Valley Institute and training partners.
- BC should create a provincially supported point-person to develop and manage a strategy for Indigenous labour-market development, including the support and planning for a lifecycle of job types (higher level, technical, support jobs) and procurement that will be required to support an LNG project.
And the report concludes:
“The number of existing LNG facility, pipeline, and upstream agreements proves that LNG projects can comply with government’s intent to seek and achieve Indigenous consent. This is not easy work, and there are barriers, but the amount of progress made in recent years is considerable.
“British Columbia’s ongoing leadership in responsible natural resource development and engagement with First Nations is an example to the country and the world in relation to respecting the environment and Indigenous rights.”
The report is well worth a read. Again, you’ll find it as a PDF at https://bit.ly/2MfHbGm.
And we hope there’s more to come in partnership with the BC government. More, too, in our next blog.