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Blog: Leading the drive for LNG in BC

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Chief Councillor Crystal Smith of the Haisla Nation has become a huge hit in social media, and a go-to person for reporters seeking intelligent comment on LNG and resource news, and the involvement of First Nations.
She’s been a big draw, too, at LNG-related events, including the Haisla LNG Conference and Trade Show in Kitimat earlier this month. There, as you see below, she won a standing ovation after her keynote speech.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She spoke first of “a new era of responsible resource development, an era that finally includes true partnership, balanced participation and, most importantly, the inclusion of First Nations in responsible and sustainable resource development in BC and Canada.”
She continued:
“Our ancestors have been here since time immemorial. And while industry built their projects in our back yard, we became spectators to the development of our unceded territories and our resources. All this development occurred without meaningful consultation, consent, nor accommodation of our unceded rights and title for our lands. For many decades we were on the outside, witnessing the success of many, and absolutely disregarded as inherent landlords of our own territories.
“The social impacts that result from managing poverty that has been delegated to our First Nations governments, not having a share nor a say in development of our own lands and resources, are well known in many First Nations communities. . . .
“Companies benefitted financially, communities benefitted from employment, municipalities gained tax revenue, and for 50-plus years we sat as spectators in our own unceded land and witnessed our resources deplete, our oolichan disappear from our rivers, our fish and other ocean wildlife contaminated to the point of not being able to harvest . . .  for our families and our members. Our members had little to no employment or educational opportunities.”
And now?
“Today we can confidently say we have achieved a share, and a say; doing so with the approach of the LNG industry who have respected, and continue to respect, that we are not your regular stakeholders, and treat our roles within their development as the landlord of our unceded territory.”
There was a message to governments at all levels: “Reconciliation is much more than a buzzword. We are no longer deemed as spectators.”
And there was much more in her powerful and moving speech. Watch the video here.

She is not the only leader of the Alliance who has been making public appearances and supporting responsible LNG development. More on them in future blogs.
Chief Crystal also got national attention when she spoke at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s 2019 gala dinner in Ottawa, saying:
“There isn’t a process for instant success. There are, however two components that I can share with you tonight that are crucial in potentially acquiring and maintaining a successful relationship between First Nations and industry to which has allowed the success that our Nation has experienced thus far:
1. A project which meets environmental standards; and,
2. A project that meets the criteria to benefit our community today and for future generations.
“I thoroughly agree with Chief Councillor Clarence Louie that we are not to be considered your average stakeholder, we are rights holders, and therefore, we should be treated in a manner that allows full participation that respects our expertise and cultural relevance to our lands.
“As First Nations people we are physically and spiritually connected to our territories. Therefore we defend and protect our lands as you would your backyard. The environment within our territories is the most important matter when it comes to any development, as we have lived on our lands for thousands of years and will continue to reside in our territories for centuries after your project has come and gone
“What does this mean for a proponent for a major project? It means that you need to demonstrate how your project addresses the environmental concerns of the First Nation, and how you will accommodate any impacts and where possible, enhance the environment within the territory.”
And here’s a full video of that speech

  • Chief Crystal also led off a special report on the LNG Canada project from Natural Gas World magazine.
  • Earlier, she wrote a guest column in The Vancouver Sun: Haisla supports gas pipeline because it means opportunities for First Nations
  • And she was a part of this story (with video) from CKPG News in Prince George: LNG Canada updates Kitimat residents

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chief Crystal will now be a speaker at the Canadian Gas Dialogues event in Calgary April 23, and then a keynote speaker at the BC Chamber of Commerce conference and AGM in May.

To add to all that: She is also an active member of the board of directors of our First Nations LNG Alliance. She has spoken at many of our public events.

(And she didn’t know about or see this blog before it went online today.)

 

(Posted here 17 April 2019)

Resources and reconciliation

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For the record, there are 634 First Nations in Canada, 198 of them in British Columbia. There are 1.3 million First Nations people in Canada, 5.6% of the population. More than 275,000 of them are in British Columbia, 6% of the provincial population.

Also for the record, their past is one of colonization and repression, and of some 70 treaties with First Nations — many of those treaties thereafter broken by “the settlers.”

Thus Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission declared in 2015:

  • “For over a century, the central goals of Canada’s Aboriginal policy were to eliminate Aboriginal governments; ignore Aboriginal rights; terminate the Treaties; and, through a process of assimilation, cause Aboriginal peoples to cease to exist as distinct legal, social, cultural, religious, and racial entities in Canada.”

In more than 200 court cases won by Indigenous people, Aboriginal rights and title have been steadily recognized and established. And the higher courts in some recent cases have held that the federal government failed in its “duty to consult and accommodate” when supporting proposals for major resource developments on Indigenous territory.

The future, I hope, is in one word, Reconciliation.

The federal government is moving toward what it calls a “Recognition and Implementation of Rights Framework.” It promises to, somehow, build principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) into Canadian law. And the BC government promises to work in partnership with Indigenous peoples “to embrace and implement UNDRIP.”

If those are steps toward Reconciliation, they will be welcome.

The First Nations LNG Alliance of BC wholeheartedly supports Reconciliation, although we recognize that it is a process that will take decades to become a given.

Our Alliance’s mission is to help to bring about what Grand Chief Abel Bosum of the Cree Nation called “the economic development partnership” and we at the Alliance call “Economic Reconciliation.”

The goal is to “close the gap” between the low standard of living of Indigenous people, and that of non-Indigenous Canadians in general.

National Chief Perry Bellegarde notes that Canada and its standard of living ranks sixth in the world according to the UN Human Development Index. Apply that index to Canada’s Indigenous people, and they rank 63rd.

We support responsible development of LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas), and its export, as a way for First Nations people in BC to begin to close that gap.

BC has vast areas of resource-rich territory that was never ceded by its Indigenous owners. It has enough natural gas to supply domestic and export demand for well over 150 years.

LNG is often called a “transition fuel”, reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by displacing coal and diesel for generating power, during a global transition to renewable energies. So be it. But that transition may well take decades; 30, 40 or 50 years.

During that transition, natural-gas and LNG production and associated pipelines promise huge benefits for our First Nations communities and peoples. And thus an important tool to help close that gap.

That would be a vital contribution to “Economic Reconciliation.”

Karen Ogen-Toews
CEO, First Nations LNG Alliance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Posted here 03 December 2018)

Economic Reconciliation, Part 4: The road ahead

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Last of a four-part series

By KAREN OGEN-TOEWS

CEO, First Nations LNG Alliance

I’ve written on the roles in reconciliation of First Nations, government and industry. I’ve primarily focused on economic reconciliation. Now I want to conclude the series with some final thoughts.

The negative impacts to First Nations have been suffered for several generations – over a century in fact. To overcome this will take great effort and resolve. And we will see some setbacks. I don’t think there is a way around this fact. The systemic change will take time – especially before it is felt at a grass-roots level.

We are all still coming to terms with our shocking history in this country and this is a key foundational first step. The path forward for all of us is murky. But I do think we all, Indigenous and non-Indigenous share some important values:

  • The importance of family and community
  • The importance of our environment
  • Prosperity
  • Equal access to the benefits of Canada
  • Inclusiveness

It it is clear that there is a high level of inequality in Canada, one only has to look at the appalling statistics that plague Indigenous communities to see it. While we are embarking on a brave new journey forward, we are starting a new chapter of history in Canada. One that is more inclusive and equitable, I hope.

Ultimately, it will come down to all of us individually as well. We have to be open to learning about each other and have compassion and understanding for each other. It’s basic dignity we need to provide to each other as we move through uncertain times.

And for those successes we have reached at an institutional lever, such as the recent Final Investment Decision for the LNG Canada project, and for the Coastal Gaslink pipeline that will bring LNG to Kitimat, we all must be diligent in ensuring the agreements reached between government, industry and First Nations are implemented fully.

Now is not the time to become complacent. Implementing something is always more challenging than negotiating it. We must work hard on realizing the economic, procurement, and employment benefits through this project. We must continue to work hard on rigorous environmental monitoring. We must continue to engage on these topics and to learn from each other.

We will see, too, what impact the BC government will have with its proposed new Environmental Assessment Act, which would require from developers a commitment to seek free, prior and informed consent from Indigenous communities for major resource projects.

The change is based on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). And Environment Minister George Heyman says it will reflect the reality that the success of any major industrial project in BC rests on meaningful partnerships with Indigenous communities.

The First Nations Leadership Council sees significant improvements in the new law (while objecting that it does not propose veto-power for First Nations) and says it “begins to make space for proper relations between Indigenous laws and legal orders, and those of the Crown.”

We don’t know yet how the new law will technically define and apply “a commitment to seek free, prior and informed consent.”

But we are already seeing strenuous efforts by developers in BC to bring about what looks to us very much like free, prior and informed consent.

That’s a most encouraging sign, of willingness to learn, of willingness to be true and considerate partners, and of willingness to acknowledge the negative impacts of the colonial settlement of BC that began 160 years ago.

But the many negative reactions to what we post online here, both by Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, show how far we in BC and Canada have to go to see eye-to-eye on what reconciliation means. This shows how much further dialogue is needed on these topics.

We are at the beginning of a new journey to reconciliation in Canada. Please join me in being committed to this goal, even though it will be a challenging journey.

Economic Reconciliation, Part 3: Industry’s role

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Third in a series

By KAREN OGEN-TOEWS

CEO, First Nations LNG Alliance

So far, I’ve talked about First Nations and governments’ role in reconciliation. This piece will describe industry’s role.

First, of course there are many legal reasons that industry has to interact with First Nations that are impacted by development projects. In fact, I would argue that companies have had to step up their game with First Nation relationship-building because governments have been slower to engage in a way that meets First Nation expectations.

Navigating these waters has been challenging for everyone – but especially for businesses that are looking for legal certainty to advance their projects. Companies need to ensure that First Nations are on side with projects. Courts have found that there is a duty to consult on both government and proponents.

Both federal and BC governments have spoken of building the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) into their laws, but neither has fully explained just what that will mean in practice.

The key principles, of course, are Articles 19 and 32.2 of UNDRIP:

Article 19:

“States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.”

Article 32.2:

“States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources.”

Canadian courts to date have stopped a hair short of saying that First Nations have legal veto power over resource developments, and so have governments.

But some leading resource companies have accepted that (no matter what their corporate lawyers say) such consent is essential, and that bona fide “consultation and accommodation” is the way to get there.

In spite of these obligations, I believe there are other reasons why companies will play an important role in reconciliation in this country. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission uncovered some ugly truths about Canada. But it ended with 94 recommendations that will contribute towards reconciliation. For example:

Business and Reconciliation

92. We call upon the corporate sector in Canada to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a reconciliation framework and to apply its principles, norms, and standards to corporate policy and core operational activities involving Indigenous peoples and their lands and resources. This would include, but not be limited to, the following:

(i) Commit to meaningful consultation, building respectful relationships, and obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous peoples before proceeding with economic development projects.

(ii) Ensure that Aboriginal peoples have equitable access to jobs, training, and education opportunities in the corporate sector, and that Aboriginal communities gain long-term sustainable benefits from economic development projects.

(iii) Provide education for management and staff on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations. This will require skills based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.

Ultimately, I believe, Corporate Canada has a huge amount of capacity to contribute towards one of our country’s greatest challenges – poverty on First Nation reserves.

There is so much that corporate Canada can contribute. Companies are ‘way more nimble than governments and have many ways they can contribute to sustainable Indigenous people, families and communities.

Companies also have great power to provide education to their own employees, but in some cases can contribute to broader education campaigns in Canada, because the other huge challenge in this country is the lack of knowledge on reconciliation, which requires huge public education efforts.

I believe there is so much more that companies can contribute outside the ‘letter of the law’ when it comes to reconciliation. And it can include all companies in this country, not just ones impacting First Nation territories.

Some companies have believed in implementing United Nation Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples standards, such as “free and informed prior consent” to projects long before these principles will be put into legislation. It’s just the best way to ensure First Nations support of projects.

Ultimately, change will come when all leaders of our country, First Nation, government, industry, and non-government organizations, come together to chart a way forward that ensures everyone can enjoy the quality of life that most Canadians take for granted.

Part 4, the next and final instalment in this series, will highlight my views on why I believe economic reconciliation is important to everyone in this country.

Part One of the series: First Nations participation in reconciliation

Part Two: Government’s role

Part Four: The road ahead

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(This item posted here 31 Oct. 2018)

Economic Reconciliation, Part 2: Government’s role

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Second in a series

By KAREN OGEN-TOEWS

CEO, First Nations LNG Alliance

We introduced this series by talking about the role of First Nations in reconciliation and the fact that some are ready for it and some aren’t.

The reason we even need reconciliation is based on the shameful foundation of this country and province, in which Canada and British Columbia excluded First Nations from political, legal, cultural and economic rights.

Laws, policy and institutions were created to disallow First Nations from voting, dispossess First Nations from owning land, and to make them wards of the Crown on Indian Reserves.

Further institutions, such as the Indian Act governance system of band councils, were imposed on communities, and children were apprehended and forced into residential schools.

In the case of BC, the government maintained a position of denying Indigenous rights and title until the early 1990s. Much of the legal uncertainty we find in BC is based on these positions – positions that the courts found incorrect – culminating in the Tsilhqot’in decision of 2014, establishing Aboriginal Title in BC.

These policies have undermined our communities, and have made many of them unsustainable economically or otherwise.

Multigenerational trauma has led to some serious wellness issues in our communities. Poverty has meant half to three quarters of our people, depending on the community , have moved to urban centres, because their homeland can’t sustain them in the way it had for thousands of years. I could go on about the atrocities but won’t.

The point is: Both governments have a large role to rectify this situation. But their actions can’t be unilateral. They have to be in collaboration with the peoples they’ve impacted so drastically.

I applaud to the federal government for advancing:

However, all this is just scratching the surface.

One can only see how the latest court decision on the Trans Mountain pipeline project decision found the federal government failed in proper consultation with First Nations.

Many companies and First Nations have commented on the fact that the government has left it up to industry and communities to sort these complex issues themselves. It’s clear now that governments are responsible for the respect of Indigenous rights and the path to reconciliation needs to be jointly created by First Nations and Governments.

The provincial government in BC is also trying to make headway in relation to reconciliation:

  • Mandate letters have been given to all Ministers on how to implement the principles of UNDRIP;
  • Treaty Negotiation mandates are being reviewed;
  • Now approaches to reconciliation are being attempted;
  • Agreements were reached with First Nations impacted by liquefied natural gas (LNG), to deal with environmental remediation and training issues.

Congratulations to the provincial government for its contributions to ensure a high level of support for the LNG Canada terminal and the associated Coastal GasLink pipeline. But this is only one project out of many in BC.

Clearly with 203 First Nations – most of them without treaties or other long-term agreements dealing with rights, title and jurisdiction — we have a long way to go with the BC government as well.

I believe we are at the beginning of reconciliation between First Nations and governments in Canada.

We can only hope that we will see more and more examples of success to ensure First Nations can enjoy a good quality of life in their home territory.

It will take concerted efforts to engage our citizens and British Columbians on these topics, and here at the Alliance, we hope to continue to contribute to the dialogue, particularly as it relates to economic issues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(This item posted here 26 October 2018) 

 

Economic Reconciliation in Canada: a series

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By KAREN OGEN-TOEWS

CEO, First Nations LNG Alliance

There are very many views of what reconciliation means. Here at the Alliance, we tend to focus on the economic aspects – but many reconciliation outcomes are connected.

In fact, I think reconciliation goals such as individual and community sustainability and wellness are linked to economic development and governance. And not everyone is ready to move forward at the same pace.

We see several setbacks every day to lofty goals of reconciliation – but, in my opinion – the LNG Canada Final Investment Decision is a key indicator of progress on reconciliation.

I don’t mean to oversimplify this – to say that reconciliation comes down to a LNG project, or that there is unanimity on support of the project at the grass-roots level, but I do think it shows that complicated projects can proceed in BC if the ingredients are right.

We are launching here a mini-series on how First Nations, government and industry can participate in economic reconciliation in BC. Everyone has a part to play.

Part One: First Nations participation in reconciliation

First of all, who is at the decision-making table for First Nations?

First Nation community governments come in many forms. There are hereditary systems, elected systems and some communities have a combination of both:

  • Integrated systems where both traditional and elected systems’ roles and responsibilities are identified and working well;
  • Independent systems where both traditional and elected systems work apart from each other with no overlap;
  • Independent systems where one or both of the traditional or elected systems are struggling for power.

In addition to this we have other structures that First Nation governments use to organize – but this can provide for some additional confusion. Some examples include:

  • Non-profit society
    • Some hereditary systems use this for administrative purposes
    • Tribal Councils are a number of First Nation councils working together
    • Treaty societies are sometimes a combination of both traditional and elected First Nation governments, allowing them to participate as a larger group.

There can be a lot of disagreement amongst First Nations in some parts of the province as to who should be at the decision table. This is because of the history of colonization of this country, where the Indian Act system of governance was imposed on First Nations.

In the case of my nation, the Wet’suwet’en Nation, we have elected chief and council and hereditary government conflicting over LNG development.

Now, I may be biased because I’m a former elected chief, but in my experience, and my opinion, both systems are supported by the Wet’suwet’en citizens. And most citizens would like both systems to try to work together.

Both systems are not going anywhere, and have legitimacy with our citizens and government . So, hopefully ,our people will find a way to come together going forward. If one side excludes the other – we have winners and losers on different topics. It would be better if we had a respectful process going forward. If we aren’t able to reconcile with ourselves – how are we expected to reconcile with other governments?

‘Be careful what you ask for’

With decades of hard-fought rights won through the courts, we have asked for meaningful consultation, we have asked for shared decision-making, we have asked for meaningful participation in these projects in recognition of our rights and title. We have largely gotten what we’ve asked for. The next question is: now what?

We often hear concerns, many legitimate, about government and industry actions or broken promises. But, we also need to worry about our own communities maintaining a credible and consistent approach to advancing our interests. The courts have also found that First Nations have to seriously consider projects and can’t simply reject them without looking carefully at the impacts.

The main ingredients for First Nations’ success going forward need to include:

  • First Nations being willing to take advantage of opportunities in a way that respects community values;
  • First Nations ensuring there is enough capacity/continuity to have consistent participation:
    • Environmental
    • Legal
    • Economic
    • Negotiating
  • First Nations having a realistic view of what kind of agreement they can reach;
  • First Nation setting out clear rules of engagement (internally with members, and externally with industry and government);
  • First Nations abiding by the rules they set up, and living up to their commitments;
  • First Nations having proper expertise available to them.

Part Two of the series: Government’s role

Part Three: Industry’s role

Part Four: The road ahead

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Posted here 20 October 2018)

Blog: From LNG, ‘real benefits’ needed

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“For First Nations to be true partners in LNG development, real benefits must materialize.”

That was one of the key issues explored in the major Joint Engagement Report that we published earlier this year with the BC Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources.

The report notes: “Many ideas were generated about First Nations views around benefits, understanding that the choices differ from community to community.”

Some of the challenges:

  • Equity participation capital is challenging to raise and not all proponents are supportive for those First Nations wanting equity participation.
  • Concerns were raised about different approaches by proponents (inequitable treatment from one proponent dealing with different First Nations or proponents that do not have a good track record in dealing with First Nations).
  • First Nation businesses need support to have the necessary skills, training and human resources and capacity to respond to business opportunities.

And here are some suggestions from the regional sessions that led to the report:

  • BC and First Nations should explore tools to equalize First Nation benefits from major projects (i.e. resource tax).
  • BC should explore ways to increase First Nation participation in spinoff benefits for major projects.
  • BC should continue to provide consistent capacity funding to First Nations to negotiate benefits agreements with the Province.
  • BC should consider incentives for proponents to engage early, and often, with First Nations throughout the development proposals so First Nations can plan appropriately for taking advantage of economic opportunities but also for managing impacts. Incentives could enable proactive proponents to move through the regulatory processes quicker.
  • BC should look for strategies to improve First Nation and industry relations. And First Nations and proponents need tools to successfully implement Impact Benefit Agreements.
  • BC should continue to provide consistent capacity funding to First Nations to negotiate benefits agreements with the Province.
  • Create more transparency and equity around government-First Nations benefit agreement negotiations processes.
  • Some thought there should be a minimum standard that ensures proponents who impact First Nation territories are compelled to engage with the First Nations impacted.
  • Camp facilities could be converted to First Nation community uses after they are no longer needed for project development work.

There’s much more in the full report.

For one thing, the report 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.”

The report’s lead researcher, Kim Baird, also wrote about lessons learned from the First Nations procurement experience in BC’s LNG industry. See pages 34-35 of the Aboriginal Business Report magazine.

Blog: First Nations’ Engagement on LNG

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We’ve looked in our blogs at employment issues and government relations, as discussed in the Joint Engagement Report that we prepared earlier this year with the BC Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources.

Now for a look at regulatory and engagement processes around LNG projects, and how First Nations are involved and affected:

For one thing, our five regional engagement sessions with the ministry heard that there are major concerns about an inconsistent approach from industry in regards to engaging with First Nations affected by their projects.

As well, some First Nations told the sessions that not enough attention is paid to the full lifecycle of projects, that some have had negative experiences with the reclamation phase of projects, and that BC should be doing more to address the cumulative effects of oil and gas development in northeast BC, where impacts are experienced across the landscape.

These and other concerns led to a suggestion that BC should enhance guidance on engagement processes — with minimum standards for industry to meet when dealing with First Nations.

And they led to the thought that that BC should support development by First Nation communities’ of guidance for industry engagement with their community.

Also proposed:

  • BC should support Indigenous collaboration and capacity funding on environmental assessment and permitting work related to new LNG projects and potential amendments to existing pipeline or facility projects.
  • BC should consider splitting regulatory review processes to deal with environmental issues and rights and title issues separately. (The sessions were told that dealing with rights and title and the environmental impacts in the same process can politicize the environmental-review process.)
  • BC should also consider jointly designed environmental review processes with First Nations. (The Squamish Nation’s approach to engagement was cited at regional sessions as a positive example of where consent was reached on the best way to minimize impacts.)
  • BC should ensure ongoing roles and responsibilities of the parties are identified for the entire life cycle of the project and have better mechanisms to manage ongoing issues.
  • BC should ensure old gas wells (e.g. suspended or abandoned wells) are cleaned up and restored before new ones are authorized, to address environmental impacts from legacy infrastructure.

The question of reviewing the social impacts of LNG development was also raised, and these recommendations emerged:

  • BC should develop opportunities to review and address social impacts collaboratively with local communities and government.
  • BC should support First Nations such as Haisla who have experienced social impacts from recent industrial development (e.g. Rio Tinto Alcan modernization) to share planning experiences with government and other First Nations potentially affected by LNG projects.

There’s much more in the full report. And many of the ideas go beyond LNG, and reflect First Nation views of requirements for the development of successful natural-resource development projects.

The report 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. When these key interests are addressed early in natural resource development projects, there is greater likelihood for success.”

The First Nations LNG Alliance looks forward to working with the BC government on further exploration of the future of LNG and ongoing engagement with First Nations.

LNG: First Nations skin in the game

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In our last blog, we looked at employment issues — “sustainable/long-term jobs instead of intense short-term labour opportunities” — addressed in the joint report we prepared with the BC Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources.

Now for a look at First Nations and government relations, and Indigenous governance:

First Nations representatives at our regional sessions last fall spoke of a need to improve First-Nation and government relations to ensure there is better alignment on assessing LNG projects.

Among the key issues: government’s strength-of-claim approach to First Nations title and rights when it comes to resource development, and how First Nation consultation is carried out in relation to strength-of-claim analysis.

(Some background: The BC government’s Environmental Assessment Office has a guide to consulting First Nations that says in part: “The scope of consultation is based on an assessment of the strength of claim, and the seriousness of potential impacts upon the asserted rights. In the case of proven Aboriginal Rights or Treaty rights, the scope of consultation is based on the seriousness of the potential impact on the right.”)

The regional sessions that led to the joint report were told that this approach:

  • Creates an adversarial environment between First Nations within adjacent areas and an exclusionary environment between neighbours;
  • Limits and minimizes legitimate environmental concerns from those that have a ‘weaker’ claim; and
  • Provides little incentive for a First Nation to be inclusive or amenable to resolving shared territory issues.

Further, the hearings were told that conflict-resolution tools or processes are not readily available between government and First Nations or between First Nations.

Under the headline “What’s Working,” the report said:

“When multiple First Nations work together they are more successful in creating opportunities to protect the environment and maximize economic benefits for each member nation. Recent examples of this include the innovative environmental monitoring initiatives in Tsimshian territories, and the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council’s recent government-to-government agreements.”

And the report cited some other “factors of success”:

  • Continuity of the parties (individuals) at the table contributes to successful processes such as regulatory reviews and government-to-government negotiations and implementation.
  • Consistent capacity enabled by consistent funding ensures continuity and the ability to see a project through.
  • Success happens if the parties are really committed to working with each other.
  • Partnerships built with strong relationships are the best foundation to overcoming the many challenges natural-resource development projects face.

The report went on to make a number of “suggestions”:

  • Government-to-government relationships should be refreshed due to new leadership both provincially and in many First Nation communities.
  • BC and First Nations should co-create a road map on how to engage First Nations in collaborative engagement processes – including permitting, benefit agreements, UNDRIP principles, and timing.
  • BC should further engage with First Nations on its approaches for the development and use of strength of claim and assess whether process improvements can be made so that consultation with First Nations is more transparent.
  • BC should develop integrated policy on how to apply UNDRIP across all ministries in collaboration with First Nations.
  • Government should invest in nation building in order to enhance capacity, skills, knowledge, economic opportunities, and the integration of Indigenous views into decisions related to major projects in traditional territories.
  • Government could improve its internal capacity to engage with First Nations (to ensure engagement is undertaken at an appropriate and consistent level).
  • BC should explore integrated planning around critical infrastructure such as pipeline placement.
  • First Nations need to resolve shared territory/overlaps amongst themselves.
  • Government should look for ways to enable resolution to shared territory conflicts.
  • Government should research and analyze the challenges of those projects that did not go forward, to inform policy development, regulatory approaches or new mandates.
  • The province should explore potential of new models to support public and First Nation equity participation in LNG projects (e.g. a new Crown corporation).
  • BC should identify appropriate opportunities for Government, First Nations and Industry to convene or engage.

We see some promise in the ideas of how First Nations and government can work together to make the whole process of consultation work more smoothly and transparently, although we accept that in practice there may be no one-approach-fits-all model.

Consultation and a ‘modern government-to-government relationship’ are parts of the BC government’s new Draft Principles that Guide the Province of British Columbia’s Relationship with Indigenous Peoples.

Premier John Horgan noted: “It is important to emphasize that these principles are draft, and provide a starting point for necessary conversations with Indigenous peoples and First Nations leadership.”

We also see much promise in the proposition that BC should explore ways to support First Nations equity in LNG projects. We have seen, and applaud, the number of Nations who are seriously interested in equity participation rather than accepting simple, but often inflexible, benefit agreements.

As one chief has put it: “You have skin in the game, you get to call some shots.”

You’ll find the full report, on recommendations for the future of LNG projects and ongoing engagement with First Nations, as a PDF at https://bit.ly/2MfHbGm.

And we look forward to more, in concert with the BC government.