Thank you, Madam Chair, for this opportunity to participate in your committee's review of Bill as we gather once again on traditional unceded Algonquin territory.
I am also appearing before this committee on behalf of my honourable colleague, .
I know that—on behalf of all on the committee—our thoughts and wishes are with him. We all want him to have a speedy recovery, but we also want him to take the time to be well and to be back advocating for northerners and northern issues, and doing his important work with the provinces and territories.
As you all know, Bill proposes to amend both the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act.
In terms of the MVRMA, the bill is focused on repealing the previous government's decision, through Bill , to arbitrarily merge four land and water boards in the Mackenzie Valley into one super-board. This decision violated constitutionally protected indigenous land claim and self-government agreements, and it ended up in court.
The bill also seeks to reintroduce a number of positive changes introduced by the previous government through Bill that have not been implemented because of the court-imposed injunction that focused on stopping the imposition of the super-board.
The Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act includes four land and water boards in the Mackenzie Valley, which are central to comprehensive land claims and self-government agreements of several local indigenous governments and organizations.
This creates an integrated co-management regime for lands and waters in the Mackenzie Valley, and it provides legal certainty for our resource development investors in the area.
Bill was passed by the previous government in 2014.
Among other changes, it merged the Mackenzie Valley land and water boards into one entity.
The legislation was immediately challenged in court. It was alleged that it violated indigenous land claim and self-government agreements.
In early 2015, the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories granted an injunction that suspended the proposed board restructuring, along with other positive regulatory amendments included in Bill . Rather than improve the regulatory process for the Mackenzie Valley and enhance legal certainty for proponents and investors, the previous government's approach landed these MVRMA regulatory reforms in Bill in court.
As we've said at this committee before, our government believes that a sustainably developed resource sector is essential to the success of the Canadian economy and, if we get it right, will serve as an important foundation for future economic and job growth. Unlocking this economic potential must be contingent on environmental sustainability and on impacted indigenous communities being engaged as equal partners.
The current situation is untenable as it creates legal uncertainty, and the positive regulatory changes are now tied up in the courts.
In November 2015, discussions with indigenous organizations and governments in the Northwest Territories began about the government moving forward with legislative amendments to resolve this matter.
Bill has been developed through consultation with indigenous governments and organizations, the Government of Northwest Territories, industry and their resource co-management boards.
The bill will resolve the litigation regarding the restructuring of the boards and reintroduce the positive policy elements of currently prevented from coming into force by the injunction. It will re-establish trust with indigenous partners in the Northwest Territories, respect their constitutionally protected land claim and self-government agreements, and restore legal certainty for responsible resource development.
I think Northwest Territories Premier McLeod and Grand Chief George Mackenzie summed it up very well in a joint letter they sent on April 24, 2019, when they wrote, “We are hopeful that Bill C-88 will proceed expeditiously through the legislative process and will receive Royal Assent in this Parliament. The negative implications of the status quo are significant.”
Madam Chair, we have copies of that letter for the members.
In terms of CPRA, Bill proposes to provide new criteria for the Governor in Council to prohibit existing exploration licence holders and significant discovery licence holders from carrying on any oil and gas activities, in the case of the national interest.
It would also freeze the terms of the existing licences in the Arctic offshore for the duration of any such prohibition.
The “national interest” refers to a country's national goals and ambitions, whether economic, military or cultural, and is not a new legislative concept. There are numerous references to the national interest in Canadian legislation and specifically in northern legislation.
For example, the term appears in section 51 of the Yukon Act and section 57 of the Northwest Territories Act. In both acts, the Governor in Council may prohibit any use of waters or the deposit of waste in cases in which the Governor in Council considers the use of waters or the deposit of waste to be incompatible with the national interest.
The decision to move forward with a moratorium on new Arctic offshore oil and gas licences in federal waters was a risk-based decision in light of the potential devastating effects of a spill and limited current science about drilling in that area. It is important to remember that at that time there was no active drilling occurring in the Beaufort Sea and no realistic plans to initiate drilling in the short or medium term.
The moratorium was announced in conjunction with a five-year science-based review, as well as a consultation on the details of that review.
Territories and indigenous and northern communities are partners in the science-based review process, and others, including industry, are being actively consulted. The outcome of the review process will inform next steps in the Arctic offshore. Freezing the terms of the impacted existing licences in the Arctic offshore was a key priority expressed by the industry in our discussions regarding the implementation of the moratorium.
The proposed amendments to both the MVRMA and the CPRA are essential to ensuring a responsible, sustainable and fair resource development regime in the Northwest Territories and the Arctic.
I urge you to pass Bill and look forward to your questions.
Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you, Minister and departmental officials.
Minister, one of the primary tasks of this bill, as you talked about, is to reverse changes made by the former Conservative government with the back in 2014. As you mentioned, this included consolidating the four land and water boards in the Mackenzie Valley into one. The Liberal Party at that time supported it, including the current , and even your parliamentary secretary, MP Jones, who is with us here this morning.
I'm going to quote what she said at the time:
As Liberals, we want to see the Northwest Territories have the kind of independence it has sought. We want it to have the ability to make decisions regarding the environment, resource development, business management, growth, and opportunity, which arise within their own lands.
That is from 2014.
These comments actually stand in direct contradiction to Bill , which extends powers to the cabinet to put moratoriums on energy development and to include the national interest, which, to be honest with you, has never really been clearly defined.
I will note that the of the day, when he did the moratorium, wasn't even in this country. He was in Washington, D.C., at the time he talked about the moratorium up north, and the elected northern officials at the time had less than half an hour to scramble to come up with the decision of the day.
I'm also going to talk, if you don't mind, about last night in the Senate, because it has major ramifications for northern Canada and moratoriums on northern development, allowing the north to make its own environmental and economic decisions. We have seen repeated paternalism coming from this government when it comes to energy development, not only in relation to northerners but as we saw last night first nations as well.
We saw it with Bill in the Senate last night: the B.C. oil tanker ban. As you know, Calvin Helin is the CEO of Eagle Spirit Energy Holdings, which is an indigenous-led group. He has been deeply critical of these types of moratoriums being directed by your government in Ottawa. He said, in response to these bans, “Is this what reconciliation is supposed to represent in Canada?”
That statement last night by Calvin speaks volumes, and we saw it last night in the Senate as they voted against Bill . We'll see what happens when it comes back to the House.
We talk of an “Ottawa-down” approach. Can we let the north make the environmental and economic decisions instead of “Ottawa knows best”?
Thank you, Minister, for being before us today.
Here we are, weeks away from the end of this Parliament. The Mackenzie Valley portion of the bill was foreseen before the election, yet it has taken four years for us to get to this place. I'm just wondering why the delay. We had the draft legislation completed in July 2017, and then it was 16 more months before we saw the legislation here in the House of Commons.
Now, we're rushing it through. We have one day of witnesses and a whole list of witnesses who aren't here: the Akaitcho first nation Salt River, Northwest Territories Métis, the K'atl'odeeche First Nation, the Northwest Territories Chamber of Commerce, the Dene Nation, Alternatives North and Ecology North. I think all of these people would have been valuable to hear, yet because we're in such a rush...and we just heard what's going on in the Senate. What are the chances that this will even get through the Senate, with this time element?
When I see this bill, which is two very different pieces of legislation stuck together, with very different people supporting and not supporting it, I wonder why the decision was made to tie them together. I'm guessing that might have been some of the cause of the delay. This is an important piece of legislation that many of us want to see pass. We'd all like to see devolution in the Northwest Territories, as you say, so that the good parts of Bill are tied up.
I'm wondering if you could comment on that whole time element. I don't know. It boggles my mind.
Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you to the minister and all the people appearing with you.
This a very important piece of legislation for us. It's something I have been involved with in different capacities over the years.
I think the way the board structure regulatory process and the board structure are set up in the Northwest Territories is certainly a model for other jurisdictions. My colleagues from Alberta and Saskatchewan probably could take a good read of this and see that there is benefit to it. I don't see the involvement of indigenous governments in any other jurisdiction, not even in the National Energy Board, where they have guaranteed seats for indigenous people.
I think it's a model that people from across the world have asked to review and some of them are considering it. It works well and had been working well. Industry liked it, indigenous governments liked it and the Government of Northwest Territories liked it. The previous government of the day saw fit to make changes. Those were changes made without the inclusion of the people who came to this type of system.
I listen in amazement to my colleagues from the other side talk about the moratorium. When the discussions with the Conservatives, the Government of Northwest Territories and the people of the Northwest Territories were happening on the devolution, they wouldn't allow the subject of the Beaufort Sea to be even put on the table, or the Norman Wells oil fields.
I think it was a good time to put a moratorium on, because there was a natural moratorium. The moratorium was not only because it was declared. Oil prices were also a great factor. In 2011, the whole system was cancelled for the Beaufort Sea. In 2012, there was a total of $7 million spent. In 2013, there was no program. In 2014, the program was postponed. In 2015, the program was postponed.
In five years there was $7 million, so nobody's going to convince me of how much money we were making in the north from it. I can tell you that the money was not coming, the royalties were not coming to the Northwest Territories, because that was not allowed on the table.
As we move forward, I hear concerns but I recognize this as putting UNDRIP into action. The involvement of the indigenous people in land and decision-making for resource management and implementing the modern treaties is certainly putting UNDRIP into action. I want to hear some feedback on that. Is that something you would agree with?
Minister, the previous speaker talked about the Canadian Petroleum Resources Act and the moratorium. I think people have to know that there was a real interest in having a review of the conditions in the Beaufort Sea before going forward.
When I visit the small communities of Paulatuk, Ulukhaktok, Sachs Harbour and Tuktoyaktuk, I talk to a lot of people who are very traditional in lifestyle. They still depend a lot on the ocean, on fishing, hunting and all those things to make a living and supplement their incomes.
A lot of people want to see employment from the jobs that oil and gas bring. At the same time, they want to do it in a strategic way. Having the science-based review that's taking place right now with the Government of Northwest Territories, the federal government and the Inuvialuit is the right move. It will continue without interruption. The oil companies are all saying—and we've heard from them—that the oil prices are not right. They're not good right now, but they don't want to give up their licences until things change and until exploration can be done down the road.
That allowance has been made, and I think that's really a good move to ensure that everybody is on the right page. We need to have this piece of legislation. It is giving comfort to the indigenous governments that we are going to move away from the super-board concept and bring other regulatory items onto the table that will make the whole process more efficient. That is also going to be well received.
Some of these are very simple. The ability to maintain a quorum is a big important piece of it, and you'd think it would be automatic. Why do we need to put it into the system? We do because it was not in there the last time. I worked with boards where they couldn't operate, couldn't do a review, because they didn't have the numbers because the government of the day didn't make the appointments. We had boards waiting for months and that wasn't good. I think the three key pieces are very important.
Is intervenor funding going to be part of the support network? For this whole process to work well we need that in place. Can you speak to that?
There hadn't been for five years and now we are going to be able to do it safely.
Also, I think it's very exciting in terms of the vision that Nellie Cournoyea has for the region, the idea of tourism and the kind of infrastructure that MP McLeod talked about, of making sure that there are hotels and places for people to hook up their trailers. This is a really exciting opportunity.
What we heard from the mining association, in all of the consultations on the northern and Arctic policy framework, is that not only do they need infrastructure, but they need training so that those young people can have jobs building these things. That, I think, is extraordinarily exciting.
At the same, with the ecotourism, indigenous tourism, those young people who want to be confident on the land and the water and the ice have this opportunity to share their knowledge with all Canadians in the north. This is a huge opportunity, and I think there is hope and real excitement about the future as I sit and talk to the young people in all of those regions.
There is the Dechinta university in Yellowknife, where the kids are learning in outdoor classrooms. This is such an opportunity.
I hope that you, as a committee, will make sure you eventually get up there to promote the beauty of the north, and the hope and the enthusiasm of some of those young people who want to be part of their governments, want to grow up to be public servants, want to be able to run their health systems and feed the teachers and all of that.
Thank you, Madam Chair. This is an interesting discussion.
The member across has pointed to one road in the Beaufort Delta area. Since we've taken office, we've redone the Fort Smith Highway, something that has been on the drawing board for us in the north for 20 years. We are going to start the construction of the Whati road in September, with a joint venture company that's going to be owned by the Tlicho Government.
We are doing work on the Mackenzie Valley Highway, a highway that hadn't been touched by the previous government for their whole term. We're working on the Taltson dam. We're doing the studies that are going to help us determine what investments are going to be done there. We're working on Slave geological province corridor. All of these things are moving forward, and it's really exciting.
However, when we do these initiatives, it has to be a whole approach. When the Inuvik to Tuk highway was done.... I still get the questions: Why didn't the federal government do a strategy to ensure that everything was looked at? Why is it that now we are scrambling for parking lots or campgrounds to help the hotels get going? None of that was taken into consideration. I think that was a missed opportunity that we're trying to play catch-up on. It has to be addressed.
I think that, most of all, these decisions are going to bring certainty. As I was saying before, governments of all levels agree on this. More importantly, industry agrees. Industry has said that they need to see resolutions of the land tenure issue. They need to see resolution to self-governance. They need to see certainty in their regulatory process. Would you agree that this will bring that?
Good morning, distinguished members of the committee.
My name is David Wright and I am presenting this morning on behalf of the Gwich'in Tribal Council.
Grand Chief Bobbie Jo Greenland-Morgan sends her regrets but sincerely thanks you for the invitation and welcomes this opportunity to provide input on Bill . I should add that I also regret being unable to attend in person. If there are any technical difficulties during my submission, feel free to stop me while we sort those out.
By way of background, I was formerly in-house legal counsel with the Gwich'in Tribal Council and am currently assisting on this particular matter. I intend to be very brief with my remarks, recognizing the time constraints, but I welcome any questions you may have as we proceed.
I'll begin with a few short contextual, informational points about the Gwich'in before moving on to three succinct points about Bill .
As many of you would know, the Gwich'in are North America's northernmost first nations people. Since time immemorial, the Gwich'in have occupied traditional territories across what is today Yukon, Northwest Territories and Alaska. In 1921, the chiefs and headmen of Gwich'in, Fort McPherson and Tsiigehtchic—what was formerly known as Arctic Red River—signed Treaty 11 with representatives of the Crown. In 1992, the Gwich'in signed the Gwich'in Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement with Canada and the Government of Northwest Territories.
The Gwich'in Tribal Council, which I'll refer to today as the GTC, was established in 1992 to represent the Gwich'in in regard to implementation of the land claim agreement and protection of Gwich'in rights and interests in the Mackenzie Delta region and beyond. Since signing the land claim agreement, the GTC and the four community-level land claim organizations—typically referred to as designated Gwich'in organizations or DGOs—have been working extremely hard to implement the land claim.
Similar to the Tlicho and the Sahtu, the Gwich'in have a treaty right to co-management. This includes requirements in chapter 24 of the land claim that establish the Gwich'in Land and Water Board.
With respect to Bill specifically, the GTC is present today to voice its support for swift passage of this bill. I'll make three specific points, all in relation to part 1 of the bill, which is the part dealing with the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act.
The first point is that passage of Bill in a timely manner has great importance in terms of Crown-indigenous relations and reconciliation. Your review of Bill C-88 is taking place within this broader context of implementation of land claim agreements.
Your review of Bill and its implementation context is part of what has not been a smooth or straightforward journey for any of the treaty parties. Canada has lost the trust of indigenous groups at many turns. There are, of course, numerous examples of this, unfortunately, but certainly a clear case in point is the problematic changes that Bill attempted to bring in. I am speaking, of course, about the creation of the super-board and the associated elimination of the land and water boards of the Gwich'in, Tlicho and Sahtu.
As you know, the current government committed to eliminating these problematic Bill changes. This is an extremely important commitment made by Canada to the indigenous communities of the Northwest Territories. It represents an important step towards restoring trust. Indeed, the consultation process on Bill has actually helped restore some of the trust between Canada and the GTC. That trust would be eroded by any further delay, or at worst, failure to pass this bill in a timely manner.
As an aside, a significant amount of consultation on this bill has already taken place, as I am sure representatives from Canada will tell you this morning. Away from that government-to-government negotiation, the GTC and the board of directors of the GTC have been working hard to review and deliberate on the changes proposed in this bill.
The second point is that while the GTC will leave it to the Tlicho this afternoon to discuss the litigation and the court injunction barring implementation of the super-board, the GTC reiterates that it was very pleased with the result obtained by the Tlicho in court. The GTC sees passage of Bill as a critical next step.
If Bill is not passed, not only will Canada not have fulfilled its commitment to Northwest Territories indigenous communities, but these communities will be forced back into time-consuming, expensive, acrimonious litigation, all adversely affecting that treaty relationship and the broader reconciliation project. Further, this would generate regulatory uncertainty that benefits no one, as the architecture for project reviews in the Mackenzie Valley would then remain fluid.
Bill is a step toward certainty in the Mackenzie Valley, and that is a step that should be taken at this time in the view of the GTC.
Third, and finally, for members of the committee interested in reforms that are not included in Bill in its present form, the GTC would respectfully submit that now is not the time to pursue such changes. Rather, now is the time to pass the important changes in Bill C-88, particularly part 1, so that the Northwest Territories modern treaty partners can move forward beyond the threat of the super-board and the toxicity of litigation.
However, members of the committee will, no doubt, be heartened to recall that an opportunity for further review of the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act is in the offing. As I believe you've heard from members of this committee, and other witnesses, further review of the MVRMA is coming as part of the five-year post-devolution review of the legislation, and a previously announced broader review of the legislation.
For example, if members are interested in including explicit reference to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, that could be part of this forthcoming review. Similarly, the review will likely take place at a time when there's finally certainty with respect to changes that may come through the proposed , for the regime in southern Canada. For example, changes with respect to timelines, factors to consider in an assessment and decision-making parameters could all be part of that later review.
As such, it will make sense to revisit the MVRMA at a later time, to ensure, perhaps, proper alignment between northern and southern project assessment regimes.
All this is to say that there is this release valve, or parking lot, if you will, that exists right now for ideas that go beyond the current version of Bill . Discussion about potential inclusion of those ideas in the bill is, respectfully, inappropriate at this time and would be better directed towards this future process, which we expect will be a process in which indigenous communities will fully collaborate.
Those are the prepared submissions of the GTC today, but I'm more than happy to discuss any of this during the question and answer period. I would note that if any questions are particularly technical or political in nature, I may refrain from answering, but will respond at a later time, after we are able to discuss with the GTC leadership and technical staff.
[Witness spoke in Dene as follows:]
[Dene text translated as follows:]
Thank you very much, and good morning to everyone. I'm very happy to get some time to present this statement. I'll get right into it, since time is of the essence.
Just to give you a little bit of background, I am Grand Chief Gladys Norwegian, elected to represent the Dehcho First Nations. We are a regional body representing eight member first nations and two Métis locales in the Dehcho region of the Northwest Territories.
The Dehcho First Nations communities are connected through language, cultural beliefs, practices, genealogy and principles. We are part of the Dene nation and have lived on our homeland and according to our own laws and system of government since time immemorial.
Our homeland comprises the ancestral territories and waters of the Dehcho Dene. We were put here by the Creator as keepers of and guardians over our waters and land. We therefore share responsibility in managing the land.
We understand that the committee is here today to consider Bill , which, among other things, incorporates the proposed amendments to the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act. I'm here to share our thoughts on those amendments. These amendments would have significant impact upon the way our land, resources and rights are impacted by development occurring within the territories of our member first nations. We appreciate the opportunity to share our view.
I would like to start by saying that on a general level Dehcho First Nations has not been a party to the Mackenzie Valley management regime. We're still negotiating with Canada on land and resource issues in our region; however, in the meantime we are made subject to the MVRMA and accordingly must deal with what is now before us.
With those points noted, I would like to say that we believe the proposed amendments are positive and are a move in the right direction. They will, if they come into force, allow for better environmental review and protection measures for the developments that are occurring within the Dehcho region.
Most notably, they will reverse the unacceptable amendments of 2014 that would have eliminated the regional co-management boards. These boards were negotiated as part of the modern treaties, but the previous government attempted to replace them with a single super-board. Those amendments are now subject to a successful injunction brought by our neighbour, the Tlicho Government, who are a party to the modern treaty and who are supposed to be a partner in the MVRMA process. We agree that the super-board should never have been put into the law and that those provisions must be reversed.
The amendments before you in Bill now make it clear that the members of the board appointed to a hearing panel will include indigenous government appointees equal in number to other appointees named by public governments. In making this provision, the proposed amendments will help to restore balance to the way the MVRMA operates and will ensure that the voice of indigenous board members will be heard. This point cannot be overstated.
Responsible management of our land and resources is a sacred duty for our people. We are prepared in the context of our treaty relationship to work with other governments, but we will never again be silenced and sidelined.
The new amendment also creates a cost-recovery scheme against proponents and an administration enforcement scheme for development certificates that is backed by fines and other penalties. From DFN's perspective, first, this will prevent hesitant or less serious proponents who lack a solid business case from moving ahead with regulatory applications. Second, this will make sure the regime is enforced and that developments move forward in accordance with specific terms and conditions. Terms and conditions of DFN and others have the opportunity to influence, under the amendments. The amendments enable intervenors before the board, such as DFN, and to seek changes to develop certificates to impose conditions on an already-approved project.
Notwithstanding the positive aspects of the bill, in the remaining time that I have here today, DFN would like us to put forward a few recommendations on the following topics.
I didn't start timing myself, so I just wonder how much time I have.
Good morning to you, and good morning to our people in the western Arctic.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak on Bill . At first, I did not support this bill, but after some discussions with my NWT colleagues, in particular our good friend Premier Bob McLeod, I do support it but with a strong statement that, moving ahead, full discussion and consultation is taken with our people of the north regarding future decisions and legislation that affects us. For example, early in the current government, put in place, without consultation with us, a crippling offshore moratorium that was imposed on us without one word beforehand.
Furthermore, we should be getting the shares or royalties from any developments going forward, similar to the provinces.
We may also be faced with the effects of the currently planned Bill , which may make it harder and harder to develop and bring about economic development throughout our region, and throughout Canada.
To shed some light on why I wanted to be here to speak in person, it's always better to see who you're talking to. Having said that, it's always better to see what you're talking about, so I really invite each and every one of you to come up and take a look at what's going on. Take a look at what your decisions are doing up in the north, in our region. Come and take a look and live in our shoes for a while and see if you can live like that.
Tuk has long been an oil and gas town. Since the first oil boom, or the whalers hunting whales in the late 1800 and early 1900s, we have grown up side by side with industry. We have not had any bad environmental effects from the oil and gas work in our region, and we have benefited from the jobs, training and business opportunities that have been available when the industry has worked in Tuk and throughout the north, the entire region.
Never in 100-plus years has the economy of our region, and the whole north, looked so bleak for the oil and gas industry, and for economic development, generally. All the tree huggers and green people are happy, but come and take a look. Come and see what you're doing to our people. The government has turned our region into a social assistance state. We are Inuvialuit who are proud people and who like to work and look after ourselves, not depend on welfare.
I thank God we worked very closely with the Harper government and had the all-weather highway built into Tuk. It opened in November 2017, if some of you haven't heard, and now we are learning to work with tourism. We all know that's not the money and work that we were used to in the oil and gas days that we liked.
I see the industry coming back. I support this to hopefully make things smoother for us a little further down the road when it does, as long as Bill doesn't throw a monkey wrench into things, as it looks like it will.
If you want to discuss Bill , I could come back and give you a longer discussion, but as it is, thank you for your time.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Yes, Michael, the government of the day, back a few years ago when this happened in Yellowknife.... We should have had it implemented. It should have come with that agreement, because now we want to be a part of the decisions that are being made.
That's what the hamlet is making sure, that the request can go forward on behalf of IRC, Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, with Duane Smith. I hope this does get put in, because the decisions you are making down here are affecting many people. As I said, there's a tourism boom right now. We have up to 17,000 people coming to Tuk, and we're 1,000 people in the community. It's like a fish bowl.
Now and going forward, the decisions being made on the Beaufort Sea should come to IRC, going through the Hamlet of Tuk. We're open for business in regard to oil and gas. We've been doing it since the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, before they went to the east coast. As my mayor said, come to our community to see what's happening. We did the first access road out to 177 to kick off the all-weather road for the Inuvik-Tuk highway.
You see that there's a great deal of potential, but we don't want to get caught up down here. I'm sorry to put it this way. The decisions you're making are affecting people, and you have to see it to make judgments such as these.
Thank you very much, Vice-Chair McLeod.
First of all, thank you for the opportunity to participate. It's an honour to be asked to appear before one of your committees or one of the Senate committees. I hope that I can add something to the debate that is currently ongoing with respect to this issue.
In full disclosure, I have testified on three different occasions on this issue: twice before the House of Commons committee, once in June 2009 and another time on January 2014; and before the Senate committee on December 2013. I've had the questions asked at some point on some of the issues, but we'll see how they go today.
I'm here to explain my report, “Road to Improvement”, which I'm sure all of you have had an opportunity to read. Maybe it's put you to sleep at night. That's fine, too. This was commissioned, as you know, by former minister Chuck Strahl, who was the minister of INAC. I was commissioned to do this report in fall 2007. The purpose of the assignment was to make recommendations to see if the regulatory systems in the north, at least north of 60°, could be improved.
The process that I engaged in through winter 2018 was to attend and spend most of my time in the north, most of it in Yellowknife. Although I did go to Nunavut and to the Yukon, I concentrated my efforts on the Northwest Territories. By the way, the process was to meet with everybody who would meet with me—all the regulatory bodies, the governments both territorial and federal, officials, aboriginal groups, at that time the treaty groups. Anybody who wanted to talk about this issue I was prepared to meet with.
We ended up then following those discussions by having a round table discussion in Yellowknife, where we invited all of the participants to come to hear what I had heard and to tell me what we should recommend in this report. The round table was opened with a prayer by Ms. Gabrielle Mackenzie-Scott, who at that time was the chair of MVEIRB. I just want to read it to you because it's important and it focuses on what we were talking about. She said the prayer was to look at the regulatory system to see if there can be some jobs created at the same time as making sure the environment is totally and absolutely protected. The overriding principles were to protect the environment and to ensure that the people who live in that part of the world make the decisions relating to resource development. The themes were clear.
The second theme, beyond the one of making sure that people in the north were engaged, was to ensure that the regulatory bodies had some improvements made to them to make them predictable, effective and efficient. To address these themes it was decided at the round table that I should make recommendations in three areas. First was for the local input of the residents, to make sure that the decisions were made in the north. Second was to make structural changes to the regulatory bodies, to make them efficient, responsible and so on. The third was to make some process changes to the regulatory bodies.
The input from the residents, an overriding suggestion, and it was the number one recommendation in my report, was that the land use plans for all the territories, particularly for the treaty areas in the Northwest Territories, had to be completed. They were delayed in completion. They had to be completed. That's where the voice of the north was to be provided.
Structural changes were to be made because there was recognition that if the land use plans were completed, the regulatory bodies would perform a different function, which would be a far more technical function relating to the environment, to safety, and to other issues of a technical nature. Therefore, there had to be some reduction in the number of regulatory bodies.
The one recommendation that seems to have attracted the most attention, and probably what I will be questioned on, is the reduction of the land and water boards from three to a super-board, as it was called later. My position was, and at the round table we all agreed, that if the land use plans were completed, there would not be a need for every regional body, every treaty area, to have a regional body. Rather, it should be one focus for the entire Mackenzie Valley.
I should point out at this stage that the recommendation with respect to the reduction of the bodies was in two parts. One was a complete reduction. The other was that the quasi-judicial nature of the decision-making would be concentrated on one Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board, but that the administrative activity would take place at the local treaty level.
The question often came up as to whose idea it was. I don't know whose idea this was. It certainly came out of our round table discussions. There certainly was no surprise when I made my recommendations, because it was clearly debated during the round table discussion with all of the interested people in attendance.
Second, as is my custom, having been around government for a long time, I made sure that I spoke to the leaders of not all of the groups, but most of the groups, to advise them of what my recommendations would be. They said that was fine. They might not publicly support it, but they thought the recommendations were good. In fact, at one point in the course of the round table, I was told to have an honest and hard-hitting take-no-prisoners report. In other words, they said, “Be bold.”
That completes my opening remarks. I have some closing remarks that I'd like to make later, after the questioning.
Thank you, Madam Vice-Chair.
Good morning, honourable members.
My name is Joe Campbell. I am an executive board member of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut Chamber of Mines and vice-president for the Northwest Territories. I am here to present the chamber's comments on Bill .
I am also an executive chairman of TerraX Minerals, a publicly traded junior exploration company currently exploring for gold around the city of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. I am also president of a geological consulting company providing services to the mining industry around the world. As part of that consulting business, I have acted as expert adviser to the Kivalliq Inuit Association in Nunavut for environmental review of mine developments. My varied work experience is relevant to my appearance here on Bill .
I wish I could say that the layering of personal workload is exceptional. However, it is commonplace in the mining industry, in which business risk is high and making ends meet is a constant challenge. These challenges are greatest in the Northwest Territories—the central target of Bill . Severe climate is certainly a factor, but a far greater issue that we face is the lack of infrastructure, which escalates development costs and timelines and renders the dream of being a leader in producing the critical metals of the green economy exactly that—a dream.
There is no level playing field for the north. We are beset by higher costs and tougher regulations from all levels of government—local, indigenous, territorial and federal. Against these odds, the mineral industry persists and provides thousands of jobs, fuelling the northern economy with billions in business expenditures and taxes and helping to contribute to regional infrastructure. Mining remains the only viable private industry that staves off the total welfare state in the Northwest Territories.
The mining industry has made great strides with indigenous communities, creating thousands of person-years of employment, supporting a wave of new aboriginal businesses and producing a flow of millions in taxes and royalties, not only to public governments but to indigenous governments also. Mining has significantly catalyzed the creation of a middle class in the indigenous communities of the north.
This economy was bought with a very small footprint for our current Northwest Territories mines of about 0.005% of the Northwest Territories, yet mining is the only industry that is regulated to provide a comprehensive project description detailing all environmental and social impacts, plans for mitigating those impacts that include impact benefit agreements, and closure plans to return the area to nature. We post the costs of those closure plans up front before digging a hole. I would bet that residential housing developments would grind to a halt under a similar strain.
Mining is not a threat in this highly regulated world and our mines operate to very high standards. We can coexist with the environment. This is the vision of Canada's north and should furnish the guiding principles for this legislation.
Despite this record and the honourable people who created it, the mining industry is demonized by NGOs and often by our own governments. Each new piece of legislation escalates the effort to constrain or prevent resource development, sometimes explicitly within the legislation but more often as an insidious increase in regulatory inefficiency that ups the costs and timelines of the process, making mine investment more uncertain.
Let's be clear. This bill's main purpose is to regulate our industry, yet that industry is criticized as self-serving if we provide comment—comment to make changes on issues that affect us directly. Let me state clearly that we are not opposed to the spirit of Bill . To attract investment in the north, we see it as necessary to have clear and firmly established rules of law to guide our development.
Do we want more certainty, clarity and timeliness of process than is provided by Bill ? Of course we do, but I am not here to argue for a single board or for shortcuts to process timelines. I will argue that legislated uncertainty and raising the cost of the process is counterproductive to regulating development. Arguably, it is included in Bill as prevention of development.
As regards certainty of process, please use this as an opportunity to change the legislation to enact sections 3.18 and 3.19 of the devolution act as promised in the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act. By addressing the need to fully devolve the MVRMA to the territorial government, we will allow northerners to make their own decisions. This will coordinate the process and rid us of the lack of accountability and ambivalence that now infests it
As regards cost, please do not enact cost recovery on Bill . Embedded within the bill—including but not limited to proposed sections 79.4, 90.31, 109.3 and 142.01—are broad provisions for cost recovery. This industry is expected to shoulder these costs, but we are given no control over them. The federal government empowers the boards, and they control the activity and the clock. Then, after pulling all the levers, they turn around and put out their hands for the recovery of the costs of the process they are entirely responsible for.
If you believe these costs are unsubstantial, please review sections 124 through 128 of the MVRMA and the corresponding amendments within Bill . After several years of baseline studies and consultation, all mine developments go to an environmental review with a minimum timeline of approximately 18 months for determination. ln practice, a determination is rarely reached in that timeline. As an example, the Governor in Council can extend the timeline to infinity based on subsection 128(2.3) of the MVRMA.
ln addition, the review board can freeze a review timeline to request more information from the developer, with no restriction on how many times it can do this. Requests to the board for delay can be submitted by any interested party. No other industry, except oil, lives daily with the spectre of never-ending regulatory processes, and now you expect us to pay for it.
ln Bill , the only written control on what is an applicable cost is for “prescribed” services. There is not a person on the planet who would sign a contract under these terms, yet the industry is expected to swallow it whole while shouldering all the other extra monetary challenges that northern development entails.
The industry cannot bear the burden of cost recovery, particularly when we have no ability to control the process or budget for it. Until the mine is built, we have no source of income. More correctly, our investment backers will not bear the cost. No investment equals no development, which equals no cost recovery at all.
ln closing, our industry provides the products that you all use daily. The green economy will rest on the backs of the rare earth metals mined by our industry. The mining industry is and will remain the backbone of northern Canada's economy, providing meaningful employment, particularly in indigenous communities.
Building a strong mining future benefits those northern communities. Don't enact legislation that diminishes that growth.
Thank you for listening. I would be pleased to answer any of your questions later.
Thank you, Madam Vice-Chair.
Good morning. My name is Mark Brooks. I'm the Arctic oil and gas senior specialist with WWF-Canada. I wish to thank the committee for their invitation to speak about Bill . We are submitting written comments in addition to this oral submission. I'll be speaking specifically about the proposed CPRA amendments.
First, I have a few words about my organization, the World Wildlife Fund. WWF is one of the largest independent conservation organizations in the world with projects in more than 100 countries. We have offices across Canada, including the Arctic, and we partner with local communities, indigenous peoples and other groups to help find solutions to the environmental challenges that matter most for Canadians.
Let me first say that WWF-Canada believes that community-supported economic development is vitally important throughout the Arctic. However, significant capacity, information and funding gaps currently exist in Canada's oil spill response framework across the Arctic, including in the Beaufort Sea region, which make potential offshore oil and gas activities particularly high risk at the present time.
I also want to emphasize the position of our organization on the need for modernizing laws governing offshore oil and gas activities in Canada, including the Canada Petroleum Resources Act, which has not been substantially updated in decades and tends to favour industrial development at the expense of other possible alternatives.
CPRA is over 30 years old. Its guiding policy focuses almost exclusively on expediting the development of petroleum resources at the expense of other alternatives. Contemporary priorities such as conservation, indigenous rights, climate change, marine safety and other issues are not mentioned in the CPRA's policy framework. Full modernization of the CPRA, along with the entire oil and gas regulatory regime is long overdue.
As for Bill , it's proposing, as you well know, an amendment to the CPRA that would permit the government to prohibit any licence holder from commencing or continuing any work or activity authorized under the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act, if the Governor in Council considers that it is in the national interest to do so.
WWF-Canada has some concerns with this bill. It's timing and precise purpose has raised some questions for us, which we believe should also be of concern to members of this committee. First, let me back up and provide some context. Of course, this has come up already today, but the December 2016 Canada-U.S. joint leaders' statement included a moratorium on new offshore oil and gas licensing in Canada's Arctic. This was followed by a year of private, closed-door consultations between government and oil and gas licence holders to discuss their interests. Public interest groups and civil society organizations were not invited, nor were we permitted to participate in these meetings. The results of the negotiations were not made public.
Following the conclusion of these consultations, in October 2018, the Government of Canada announced it planned to “freeze the terms of the existing [exploration] licences in the Arctic offshore to preserve existing rights, remit the balance of any financial deposit related to licences to affected licence holders and suspend any oil and gas activities for the duration of the moratorium”.
Eleven exploration licences in the Beaufort region are set to expire over the next few years. The government could simply allow these licences to expire on their own, likely without any liability on the government's part, and collect hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of dollars, in forfeited financial deposits for work that was promised under the terms of the licence but not carried out. This is money that could be used for critical investments in the north.
Instead, the government is introducing a proposed amendment to the CPRA through Bill to prohibit oil and gas activities for reasons of national interest, which is not defined, and it's not clear to us why there is a need for this expanded power.
Concurrently, in last week's Canada Gazette, the government announced its intention to issue new exploration licences in the Beaufort Sea, effective July 10, 2019, to replace existing licences. From our perspective, the proposed amendment in Bill appears to be a way of ensuring, after one year of private negotiations with industry, that licence holders do not lose their rights or their licence deposits, despite having failed to do the work required by the terms of their exploration licences.
Extensions to exploration licence terms are expressly prohibited by the CPRA. If the government is using Bill as a way to preserve rights and extend licence terms, we believe this would be an abuse of the expanded prohibition powers. As noted, term extensions would also mean that licence holders do not lose their deposits, even though they were unable or unwilling to complete the work they had committed to doing. As companies will avoid substantial financial losses, one could argue that, in effect, this is a form of indirect subsidy to industry from a government that has committed itself to eliminating all inefficient oil and gas subsidies.
Licence holders may argue they are entitled to licence extensions and a refund of financial deposits because the 2016 oil and gas moratorium in the Arctic and the 2015 ministerial review of the CPRA created regulatory uncertainty. However, the review of the CPRA lasted only 10 months, and the moratorium did not apply to existing licences.
I want to emphasize this point, because I'm not sure it's been raised yet this morning: The moratorium did not apply to existing licences. The government's announcement at the time, in 2016, even stated, “Exploratory licences may accede to Significant Discovery within their existing permit timelines.”
As an example, Imperial Oil holds two of the largest exploration licences in the Beaufort Sea, both of which are due to expire in the next year and a half. Despite holding these licences since September 2010, Imperial has done no exploration work to our knowledge. Chevron, another licence holder in the Beaufort, put its plans on hold in 2014, citing a drop in oil prices. These and other licence holders appear to have been speculating when they bid on these licences years ago. Now that the time limit on their interests is expiring, they seem to want the government to extend their terms and preserve their rights, which the government appears willing to do. This is not acceptable in our view.
In addition to being unjustified, this attempt to preserve rights and extend licence terms is a threat to the sensitive Arctic marine environment. An oil spill from shipping or a well blowout would devastate the surrounding marine environment, potentially destroying habitat for polar bears, seals, walrus and seabirds, as well as beluga, narwhal and bowhead whales. In addition, research indicates that seismic testing can seriously harm marine wildlife, which many Inuit depend upon for their livelihoods. However, in the Canadian Arctic only limited emergency response equipment currently exists on a scale required to adequately deal with a major oil spill or well blowout. Many coastal communities have access to only the most basic oil spill response equipment from the Canadian Coast Guard.
We believe there's no justification for the government to extend licence terms and refund financial deposits to licence holders, and we're deeply concerned by the government's stated intention to reissue identical exploration licences with extended terms before Canada is sufficiently prepared for the risks of offshore oil and gas activities. Until oil recovery and cleanup technologies in icy waters have improved and Canada is better prepared for these activities, drilling in the Canadian Arctic should not proceed.
Immediate steps, including substantial investments and more research to fill many data gaps, must be taken to provide adequate response capacity and infrastructure support if offshore oil and gas activities are ever to take place in the Canadian Arctic.
Thank you again for your invitation today. I welcome any questions you might have.
First of all, thank you very much, honourable member, for that question.
The answer to the first part of your question is, no, I did not receive any instruction or any advice from Minister Strahl. I should say, just to be clear, that I was actually appointed to do this by Minister Prentice, but he then moved on to another portfolio and Minister Strahl took over. At no time did they give me any instruction other than to try to improve the regulatory processes in the north. They thought, there are complaints; improve them whatever way possible.
As to where the idea came from, as I mentioned in my opening remarks I can't tell you who came up with the concept to begin with. It could have been me. I'm not a very creative guy, so I doubt it was me. What came out of it, in any case, was that if the plan we talked about were followed, which was to ensure that the land use plans were approved in advance, you could then look at the regulatory bodies and try to make them true, technical regulatory bodies.
For that to be the case, you'd have to have a certain capacity. You couldn't have that in all of these regional boards, so they would then be refined into one board that would be able to do the work that should be done by a regulatory body. Does that answer your question?
Our belief in the chamber and among the mining companies working in the north is that there has to be a commitment by the federal government, with a national interest—a national vision—of how we're going to develop our north.
If you go into the Yellowknife Airport, drive to the road at the end of the entrance and look north, there's nothing all the way to the coast. That is a huge inhibitor to development in the north, and it restricts the ability of northerners to actually get benefit from the resources they have. We need to have a vision for being able to bring those interests in.
In particular, if we look at green metals—as I mentioned before—there's a reason there are only diamond mines in the Northwest Territories now. It's that we can carry the product out in our back pocket. If I want to get into any kind of a development where I'm trying to mine for lithium, other rare earths or cobalt—and there's a mine that's actually going through the permitting process that has a cobalt primary element—these are mines that require transporting bulk commodity back out of the north. I cannot do that without infrastructure, so my hands are tied.
When I said it's a dream for us to participate in the green economy, I meant that without infrastructure it's a dream, and that's not even touching on energy. Every mine in the north is run off diesel fuel. Every remote community in the north is run off diesel fuel. You cannot expect us to be running a green economy when we have to pour diesel into our generators to keep them going.
I can't speculate on what went on. I would have loved to know what went on behind closed doors during the one-year private consultations between the government and industry. WWF Canada made requests to Indigenous and Northern Affairs to try to find out. We wanted to participate or at least find out the results of those consultations, but we just know what the public knows in terms of the announcement in October 2018: that the licences would be frozen and the rights to those resources would be protected.
As a result, I can't say, and that's why I say in my presentation that this appears to be.... We can only speculate on what we know, and what we know is that oil prices have been too low to make oil and gas profitable in the Arctic. There's some disagreement on this, but the break-even point seems to be around $100 a barrel, and we're nowhere near that.
You're absolutely correct, though, and I want to emphasize this once again. The moratorium applied to new licences only, and that meant there would be no new parcels available for bid. However, there were already, as I say, 11 exploration licences and dozens and dozens of significant discovery licences in the Beaufort and High Arctic region, which companies were free to continue their work on. Significant discovery licences have no terms. They're unlimited, so companies have as much time as they like. As I said, the exploration licence term is nine years, but there is nothing in this moratorium that prevents a company from doing work on those licences.
As I say, exploratory licences may accede to significant discovery within their existing permit timelines, so we don't know why the government is introducing this new authority of national interest. It appears that it's being used to extend the terms of these licences, and then, as I say, this coincides with the Canada Gazette four-year issuance of new licences.
Thank you, Madam Chair. I should note that if we had got you to move to the Northwest Territories we would have had a real McLeod government.
Good afternoon. Thank you for the invitation to appear before the standing committee today as you review Bill , an act to amend the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act. As you review this bill, I would like to share with you some recent Northwest Territories history that is specific to the Northwest Territories offshore and the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act.
The Northwest Territories is home to 44,000 residents, who live in 33 communities spread out over more than 1.3-million square kilometres. We are a unique jurisdiction in which indigenous and non-indigenous people live, work and govern together in the same communities, and where half of our population identifies as being first nations, Inuit or Métis. The result of this combination of indigenous and non-indigenous people living and working together is a public government where actions and decisions are informed by and include northern indigenous views and priorities from the outset.
A large part of our territory's modern history can be linked to resource development dating back to the 1920s, with the discovery of oil in the Sahtu region. Today our economy is still heavily reliant on resource development, with mining, oil and gas accounting for more than 25% of our gross domestic product.
Since 1984, the governments of Canada and the Northwest Territories have been party to six settled indigenous claims. Most of these agreements are land claims that formally recognize the rights of indigenous governments to manage and benefit from the ownership of land and resources in their region. The rights of the Dene and Métis of the Mackenzie Valley are reflected in the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, which was enacted in 1998 and provides an integrated, co-managed land and water management regime throughout the Mackenzie Valley.
The MVRMA has been a world-recognized model for public-indigenous co-operation in the management of lands, waters and other resources in the Northwest Territories for more than 20 years. The co-management model emerged from the three constitutionally protected land claim agreements of the Mackenzie Valley. We've provided an “MVRMA at a Glance” handout, and also a map of the territory. The MVRMA applies to all Northwest Territories areas outside the northernmost region, the Inuvialuit settlement region, which takes a different approach to resource and land management.
The MVRMA ensures both that there is transparency during project reviews and that economics, the environment and culture are considered during project assessment. The MVRMA also provides for the review of government-led infrastructure projects and holds both our governments to the same high standard of accountability that industry is held to.
The Government of Northwest Territories wants to ensure we have a progressive regulatory system that works for the people of the Northwest Territories and governments and will also attract industry investment. Bill seeks to advance numerous modern amendments to the MVRMA that were first passed in 2015, in Bill .
They include the authority to direct regional studies that can examine the effects of a development at a regional scale, the authority to develop administrative monetary penalty regulations that can be used to promote compliance, and the establishment of development certificates, which are becoming common tools across Canada to ensure measures from environmental assessments and impact reviews are carried out.
This was the intention when the Government of Northwest Territories and the Government of Canada signed a devolution agreement in 2013. However, those Bill amendments never came into force due to a court injunction brought about because of a section of Bill C-15 that would have consolidated the four regional land and water boards into one larger board.
Bill seeks to advance the amendments from Bill again, while preserving each of the regional land and water boards. We don't see Bill C-88 as a partisan bill. It ensures that land claim agreements are fully implemented by maintaining the regional boards, and it also has modern amendments with multi-party support. As you can see, the MVRMA is also quite unlike other project assessment laws that are currently being considered.
The MVRMA is well established and has allowed indigenous and public governments to work together for the past 20 years to manage the development of land and resources. The proposed amendments to the MVRMA in Bill would increase certainty around responsible resource development in the Northwest Territories. That certainty is something our territory needs as we continue to work with the indigenous governments in the territory to attract responsible resource development.
I would also like to touch briefly on Bill 's proposed changes to the Canada Petroleum Resources Act, or CPRA. The CPRA is the law that outlines how petroleum exploration and development rights are issued in the Arctic Ocean, which is still under federal jurisdiction.
Unfortunately, Canada unilaterally imposed a moratorium on new offshore oil and gas licences in 2016 without consulting either the indigenous or public territorial governments.
Although disappointed with the way the moratorium was imposed, we also recognize that Canada has a need to provide a legal basis upon which to implement this moratorium.
As a government, our current focus is moving forward towards co-management of the Northwest Territories' Arctic offshore waters and resources. We are working with Canada and other partners on the five-year review of the moratorium. We also want to ensure that the review is evidence-based and evaluates the different regions of the Arctic individually, as the Beaufort in particular has benefited from many years of study.
We fully expect this CPRA provision to be a short-term measure and expect Canada to fulfill its commitment to developing an offshore co-management regime comparable to the Atlantic accord's. We need this accord to ensure that northerners will be decision-makers on oil and gas exploration and development in our offshore, including when decisions are made about whether, when, where and how it happens.
The Government of the Northwest Territories supports swift passage of Bill . The implications of not proceeding with the bill within the lifetime of this government and retaining the status quo are significant. Amendments to the MVRMA have been on the books for five years, and we don't want any more uncertainty associated with our regulatory regime. Resource developers are contemplating investing in developing the Northwest Territories' rich natural resources, and everyone benefits from regulatory certainty.
The Government of the Northwest Territories and indigenous governments are working together to build our territorial economy. The passage of Bill and the preservation of the regional land and water boards, as committed to in land claim and self-government agreements, is an important part of this.
Thank you very much.
Thank you, and good morning. I'll just get into my presentation.
On behalf of the Tlicho Government, thank you for inviting us here to Ottawa to address Bill . It is very important for the Tlicho chiefs to all be here personally to emphasize how vital this bill is for our communities, our territories and our treaty relationships.
I'm here today with Chief Nitsiza of Whati, Chief Wedawin of Gamèti, and Chief Football of Wekweèti. The law guardians of the Tlicho, Bertha Rabesca Zoe and Paul Bachand of the Pape Salter Teillet law firm are being made available to respond to technical legal questions that might be posed.
We view this bill as affirming a direct treaty promise to the Tlicho people. We urge the community to move swiftly and decisively to ensure that Bill comes into force during the current session of Parliament.
Regarding the treaty right to co-management, it is necessary that the committee understand the significance of the Tlicho agreement and its relationship to Bill . The Tlicho agreement was signed in 2003 and has been in force since 2005.
The Tlicho agreement is key to keynote documents in the modern history of the Tlicho people. It is a modern treaty that enjoys the protection of section 35 of the Canadian Constitution. It sets out our rights and jurisdiction on Tlicho land and throughout our traditional territories. The signing of our agreement more than 15 years ago was a landmark moment for Tlicho people, for the Northwest Territories and for all Canadians.
The Tlicho agreement confirms that the Tlicho Government has jurisdiction on over 30,000 square kilometres of Tlicho land. Tlicho citizens also exercise aboriginal rights, including harvesting rights, throughout all our larger traditional territories of Mowhi Gogha Dè Ni?i?tlèè. In the heart of Mowhi Gogha Dè Ni?i?tlèè is the environment and resource management area of Wek'èezhii, which covers about 160,000 square kilometres.
The co-management of natural resources in Wek'èezhii is an essential part of the Tlicho agreement. Co-management is essential to address the overlapping interests and jurisdiction of Tlicho Government, other indigenous government and public government.
Protecting the environment while promoting responsible development and use of resources is a concern to all the responsible governments in the north. Both sides of that equation are very important to us. Under the Tlicho agreement, the Tlicho Government is co-manager and joint decision-maker with respect to lands, waters and renewable and non-renewable resources within Wek'èezhii.
The Tlicho agreement provides for co-management in part through the establishment of regional land, water and renewable resource boards. The Tlicho Government, other IGOs and public government are all represented.
The Tlicho Government has the treaty right to appoint 50% of the members to all co-management boards within Wek'èezhii. This includes the Wek'èezhii Land and Water Board, which is the centrepiece of the management regime for land and water in Wek'èezhii.
We are here today on behalf of the Tlicho government, to ensure that this effective and representative co-management system is preserved and strengthened in accordance with our modern treaty.
I will now pass the microphone to Chief Nitsiza of Gamèti, who will continue our presentation.
Thank you for listening.
Thank you, Grand Chief, and thank you, Madam Chair.
The constitution and mandate of the Wek'èezhii Land and Water Board is set out in the Tlicho agreement. The Wek'èezhii Land and Water Board has a dual regulatory mandate, which is the conservation of the environment and the development and use of resources. The Tlicho agreement required Canada to establish the land and water board through legislation. lt did this in 2005 through the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, after extensive consultation with the Tlicho Government.
In our view, there are three key characteristics of the Wek'èezhii Land and Water Board that you need to know. lt implements treaty rights and represents co-management in action. It has built capacity, experience and the trust of Wek'èezhii residents. lt has been documented that it performs its function well and operates efficiently and effectively in the public interest.
The Northwest Territories Devolution Act was passed in 2014. The act would amend the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act to eliminate the Wek'èezhii Land and Water Board and the treaty co-management system without meaningful consultation with the Tlicho Government or other indigenous governments.
The Wek'èezhii Land and Water Board and other boards in the Northwest Territories would be replaced with a single super-board. Instead of appointing 50% of the board members, as our Tlicho agreement requires, the Tlicho Government would appoint only one out of 11 members on this super-board. The Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act amendments could allow decisions about Wek'èezhii to potentially be made by a panel of the super-board that could lack Tlicho Government appointees entirely. This was unacceptable to us. Tlicho were promised something different in their treaty from what was designed in the Northwest Territories Devolution Act. The treaty promise was broken with no good reason, so we went to the courts for justice.
The Tlicho Government immediately sought an injunction from the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories. That injunction was granted. It prevents the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act amendments from coming into force, and remains in effect to this day. You should also know that the underlying lawsuit also remains active, pending the results of this legislative process. The injunction will remain in effect until either a new law is passed or our lawsuit regarding the Northwest Territories Devolution Act runs its course.
There is an urgent need for action. The Tlicho Government hopes that Bill can be passed by the current Parliament without delay. Otherwise, both starting the legislative process again from scratch and proceeding with our lawsuit against Canada will likely take years. Proceeding with our lawsuit, which is still in its earliest stages, would be a particularly bad result for all stakeholders. ln addition to being long and expensive, failure to resolve this matter co-operatively would damage our treaty relationship and undermine the process of reconciliation as directed by the courts. Long-term regulatory uncertainty for any reason will damage the economy of the Northwest Territories, including within the Tlicho community. This is all avoidable with the passage of Bill .
The Tlicho Government supports the passage of Bill without reservation. It has been clear that the protection of the Wek'èezhii Land and Water Board in accordance with the spirit and intent of the Tlicho agreement is of the utmost importance to the Tlicho people.
Bill serves at least three essential functions. It preserves the established and effective regional co-management boards, including the Wek'èezhii Land and Water Board, in accordance with the Tlicho agreement. lt strengthens the co-management system by reintroducing other new provisions that did not come into force because of the injunction. These have broad support from industries and governments, including the Tlicho Government. lt delivers industry the certainty it desires, and will allow us to collaborate with proponents and our co-management and treaty partners to ensure responsible use and development of our shared resources.
Thank you, Chairperson McLeod.
Madam Chair, I'm very happy to see all the witnesses who have appeared today from the north. It's really refreshing to have a chance to talk about a very important issue.
This is an issue that's been fairly confusing for a lot of us, because the regulatory process in the north was working well. It was negotiated in land claims. We had agreement from indigenous governments. Industry was familiar with it. The Government of Northwest Territories was working with it. Communities were satisfied. We had comfort that we had a voice.
I'm not sure who asked for a review, who wanted to make the changes. However, today we heard from Neil McCrank, the guy who designed and wrote the recommendations, and his experiences with Alberta—Alberta oil and gas. He doesn't have a whole lot of experience in indigenous issues or indigenous affairs, or any involvement that has included decision-making by indigenous people. He also pointed out an important thing that we have to make note of. His recommendation was to include land use planning before this super-board concept came forward, so it seems that the government of the day cherry-picked one piece and threw it in. That brings us to where we are now.
My first question is to the Grand Chief of Tlicho.
This was an agreement that came forward as part of your negotiations. In terms of trust, what has that done to your government's relationship with the federal government? My second question is, what has it cost you to deal with this issue since 2008?
Thank you for the question.
With regard to the trust question, we were involved in the regulatory amendment discussions from the get-go: me plus my other legal colleagues, and one who isn't here with us today, Arthur Pape. He was very instrumental in the negotiations of the section in the land claims agreement that deals with the regulatory systems.
When Minister Strahl first announced the regulatory reform, it was done to the Chamber of Mines in Yellowknife. The indigenous governments were not invited...that this would be happening. Since that announcement, McCrank was appointed to look at the regulatory system and make recommendations. We were in those supposedly consultation meetings at that time, but we never agreed to have a single board structure. Right from the get-go, our relationship with the government has not been very conciliatory. They said that the agreement allowed for them to do that and we didn't agree on the interpretation of those sections.
Our relationship with the government in terms of the injunction was very costly, as is any court case. The injunction cost the Tlicho Government money and time to do this. When the injunction was granted, the federal government chose to go to the court of appeal. We were in that court of appeal process when the election happened and the Trudeau government came to power. That litigation is stayed right now, but as Chief Alfonz pointed out, there are only two avenues. If it doesn't pass, then we have to consider what the next steps would be.
In terms of trust, whatever little trust we had with the Harper government, it eroded pretty quickly after that. We were always on the record for Bill , when it was going through Parliament, in opposing the single board structure. The Tlicho were very supportive of keeping the Wek'èezhii Land and Water Board in place, and we didn't agree with it becoming just an administrative role. That was going against the spirit and intent of the Tlicho agreement.
I'd like to thank you all for being here. It's wonderful to have you here, face to face in front of us.
I want to pick up on this whole discussion of the Bill and Bill continuum. I hear the message loud and clear that you all want Bill C-88 passed without delay, yet there has been delay. That's why we're getting a bit anxious.
Going back to Bill , as you were just saying, we had a bill there that was largely about devolution. There were a lot of good things and everybody was in favour of that, yet there was almost this kind of poison pill part of it with the elimination of the regional boards. That's why the NDP didn't support Bill C-15. We felt that devolution needed to be done properly. Of course, it went to the courts because of the Tlicho, so here we are today with Bill , which is a response to that court injunction.
Now they've added this other part, so again we have a bill that has two disparate parts. One part everybody seems to love, but I'm having a hard time finding anybody who supports the second part of this bill, whether it's because of the lack of consultation with indigenous people.... Industry doesn't seem to be too happy, and now we hear that environmentalists aren't that happy either. I am afraid that this is what has caused this delay.
Grand Chief and Premier, perhaps you could both respond to this question. This government came into power in 2015. The consultations around this bill went for a couple of years, or a year and a half, and were finished by the spring of 2017. We had a draft bill created in 2017, yet it was another 16 months before we saw it in the House. Do you have any insights as to why this process dragged on for so long that now we're faced with literally weeks left to make sure this happens?
There was a question around intervenor funding. To clarify, in the north, in particular for the three territories, there is a separate program. It's a $10-million program over five years that allows for indigenous governments to have intervenor status in all environmental nature projects.
Because this bill was primarily in the north, whereas Bill is all across Canada, it allows for a different clause. I wanted to point that out. There's no reason to think that funding is not going to be there for the long term. That's the intention of it.
My next question, if there is time, is with regard to the changes to the resource development act. I live in a province where co-management of oil and gas has allowed our province to grow. While the moratorium might be seen by some as an impediment to development, what we've been able to accomplish because of taking the time to do it right, I see as being a true asset.
I would ask Premier McLeod if he could speak to the process that they're engaged in with the federal government to ensure that the Northwest Territories gets the appropriate royalties on resource development through oil and gas.