What We’ve Heard – Happy Valley Goose Bay, NL
The Expert Panel for the review of environmental assessment (EA) processes met in Goose Bay October 6 and 7, 2016, for in-person sessions which included Indigenous presentations and Indigenous open dialogue sessions.
The following summary presents the comments and input received throughout these in-person engagement sessions. It is intended to present the views of participants, and not the views of the Panel itself.
The Panel wishes to thank all those who participated for sharing their expertise and experience at these sessions.
Environmental Assessment in Context
The Panel heard many perspectives on what EA should achieve. Recommendations included replacing the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012) with legislation that encourages and enables harmonization and coordination between federal, provincial and Indigenous groups.
It was recommended that the Panel consider a “broad view of the environment” and the life cycle impact of effects. Further, it was identified that federal EA should require robust sustainability assessments, which base evaluation and decision-making on sustainability criteria.
The Panel also heard ideas for the use of regional planning and strategic assessments to determine the types of development that could occur. Regional and strategic EA were identified as approaches for meaningful cumulative effects assessment. The failures of project-based approaches to assess cumulative effects were identified, including the inability to contribute to the reconciliation process between the Crown and Indigenous peoples.
Overarching Indigenous Considerations
It was recommended that Indigenous Traditional Knowledge (ITK) be incorporated into the legislation by replacing the “may take into account” language in CEAA 2012 with more prescriptive language that would:
- signal stronger support and respect for the importance of ITK;
- broaden the scope of ITK included in EA;
- contribute to a more consistently serious and exhaustive consideration of ITK; and
- create a mandate for adequately funding the consideration of ITK.
It was recommended that the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), including “free, prior and informed consent,” should be recognized in any new legislation. It was also recommended that these principles should be negotiated in Impact Benefit Agreements or other agreements between proponents and Indigenous Nations, as well as through environmental accommodation agreements with the Crown. It was suggested that an arbitration mechanism could address the veto issue and contribute to rebuilding trust in the EA process.
The Panel heard concerns about the delegation of procedural aspects of the duty to consult and the assessment of potential impacts on Aboriginal and treaty rights to proponents. It was identified that proponents do not have a duty to consult and are not willing or qualified to undertake these activities, which results in an overall low quality of assessments. Furthermore, this process results in reduced Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency capacity to understand and assess potential impacts on Aboriginal and treaty rights and undermines the relationship between the Crown and First Nations.
It was recommended that in order to improve consultation, the later stages of the EA process should be better utilized to resolve issues and fill in gaps. It was also recommended that consultation on the EA report and conditions should include an assessment of impacts on Aboriginal and treaty rights and that appropriate policy guidance on Aboriginal and treaty rights should be developed.
Planning of Environmental Assessment
The Panel heard concerns about project splitting, and it was recommended that closely related projects should be assessed together to gain a full understanding of potential effects.
In the context of the Lower Churchill Project, the Panel heard concerns that the scope of CEAA 2012 excluded some social and economic effects on local communities, such as social and economic impacts related to increased real estate prices and grocery costs. The Panel also heard about deficiencies related to the assessment of socio-economic well-being of First Nations, including limited baseline data and capacity, insufficient assessment of socio-economic effects under Section 5(1)(c) of CEAA 2012, and limited socio-economic monitoring and effects management related to past projects. It was recommended that the definition of “environmental effects” be expanded to include socio-economic effects not related to changes to the environment. The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act was suggested as a more effective model.
The Panel heard recommendations to regain public trust, including ensuring that future EA processes be more accessible to the general public so as to facilitate meaningful and robust public participation, and recognizing Indigenous views and the views of all citizens and community knowledge in assessments, decision-making processes and project approvals. It was also recommended that EA processes recognize the interest of those adjacent to a particular project and that these views be taken into consideration.
The Panel heard about the impact of resource development on communities and the challenges of keeping community members informed of development on their traditional lands. Capacity was identified as a significant concern and barrier to meaningful participation in EA processes. Participants explained that their communities have limited expertise and resources to meaningfully engage and review large volumes of highly technical information. This is exacerbated in Indigenous communities with language barriers and significant social issues. It was identified that English is the second language for many community members and that, as a result, community consultations take longer because members have questions and need to understand the information in their language. Many participants noted that government departments did not provide the technical or financial support that communities would like.
Conduct of Environmental Assessment
The Panel heard concerns about the independence of the assessments and quality of data collected by scientists retained by proponents. It was recommended that scientists involved in EA be independent from government. The Panel heard that there is a need for a citizen focused, independent advisory committee that is established at the beginning of the review process. This committee would determine what independent/peer-reviewed scientific research would be required for the proponent’s environmental impact statement.
It was also recommended that the conduct of EA could be improved by investing in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, empowering review panels, and increasing accountability of proponents.
Decision and Follow-up
Participants explained the importance of Indigenous peoples having a say in the developments occurring in their traditional territories that may impact their rights. The Panel heard various recommendations and proposals related to Indigenous involvement in EAs. Recommendations focused broadly on respect for Aboriginal and Treaty Rights and support for reconciliation. For example, the Panel heard about the need to have a significant role for Indigenous Nations, in particular related to follow-up and monitoring that is robust and funded. The Panel heard that currently there is limited Indigenous involvement of monitoring post-project approvals.
The Panel heard about the benefits of Impact Management Agreements. It was recommended that post-project monitoring should be independent and not proponent-led, and it was suggested that community organizations and Indigenous groups should be more involved in monitoring, conducting or commissioning independent studies and research.
Specifically, the Panel heard about the need for joint decision-making authority over environmental monitoring and management through the creation of Environmental Management Boards and Expert Advisory Committees that could provide advice on mitigation measures and design and conduct monitoring programs based on both scientific and ITK. It was recommended that these could be modeled on cooperative EA processes and co-management models established as part of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement and the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Act; for example, the Environmental Impact Review Board and Environmental Impact Screening Committee. In addition to providing a single window approach to EA, these co-management processes were viewed as a model for how to engage and inform local community members and councils.
The Panel heard that the current decision-making process at the discretion of the Minister creates mistrust. Alternatively, the Minister should be required to make decisions based on agreed-upon sustainability criteria. A need for a mechanism for communities and Panels to recommend that a project cannot proceed was identified. Further, based on project experience, presenters suggested that there should be a mechanism to revisit a project following approval based on new evidence or monitoring results.
Indigenous sessions - October 6, 2016
List of Presenters
- Eldred Davis, Grand RiverKeeper Labrador
- Roberta Frampton-Benefiel, Grand Riverkeeper Labrador, Canadian Environmental Network,
- Environmental Planning and Assessment Caucus
Open Dialogue Participants
- There were 3 participants for the Open Dialogue session.
Indigenous sessions - October 7, 2016
List of Presenters
- Anastasia Qupee, Grand Chief of Innu Nation
- Rick Hendricks, Camerado Energy Consulting Inc. Environmental Assessment Advisor to Innu Nation
- Andreay Hoyt, Darryl Shiwak, Carl McLean, Nunatsiavut Government
Submissions Received in Happy Valley Goose Bay
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