Wonderful. Thank you so much.
Good afternoon, everybody. Qam agalaa. My name is Dr. Liza Mack. Qagaasakung for inviting me to speak with you today.
First I want to thank you for my being able to address this body about this very important topic of engaging indigenous communities when it comes to large energy projects.
As I begin, I would like to introduce myself and tell you a little bit about my background and the organization that I represent.
I am the executive director of the Aleut International Association. Aleut International is one of the six permanent participants on the Arctic Council. We represent the Aleut people, who live both in Russia and in Alaska, at the Arctic Council and all of its working groups and expert groups, and with many of their projects.
I was born and raised in the Aleutians. We grew up subsisting and living off the land. Our people are Unangan, or Aleut in English. We often say that when the tide is out, the table is set. We harvest. We preserve. We eat many things out of the tide pools and off the reefs. There's an abundance of seafood that actually sustains our communities. We are a coastal people. We've done this for thousands of generations. Some of the things that we harvest and eat include salmon—all five species—crab, halibut, cod and octopus; marine mammals such seals, whales and sea lions; and terrestrial animals such as caribou. We also eat different migratory birds as well as birds that live in and around our communities.
I left my hometown of King Cove when I was 15 to go to boarding school. This was the start of my education outside of our community. My educational background is in anthropology, cultural anthropology. I have both my bachelor's and my master's degrees in anthropology. Also, I just finished my doctorate in indigenous studies at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Most of the research that I did was with Aleut leaders and fishermen from around the state of Alaska. For my master's research, I analyzed the State of Alaska Board of Fisheries testimonies, and I also interviewed testifiers to see whether or not they felt their testimonies contributed to the regulations that were passed. In Alaska, the management of our resources, and especially fisheries, is sometimes very contentious, and the system is often daunting for people who are unfamiliar with the process.
Part of the reason this is important to the conversation today is that these types of decision-making processes are things that people in local communities around the Arctic need to be involved in as we move forward with some of these projects and some of these regulatory issues.
In my dissertation research, I was working with communities and also with Aleut leaders, and I helped to develop, implement and analyze a survey that had to do with natural resource management laws in Alaska. A lot of these laws actually affect local people in very unique ways. There are a lot of different boundaries, a lot of different guidelines, that people need to be aware of and cognizant of. There are also our cultural practices, the things we've done within our communities for generations. Understanding how these two worlds work together is very important.
Throughout the process of all of my background and research, and all of the things that I've been doing not only in this capacity but also as a researcher and as somebody who is involved with cultural revitalization and language within my community, there have been several issues that I think we could benefit from by mentioning them here.
We're starting to talk about energy projects and how to engage with indigenous communities. As I said, even though I am from the community, and that's where I did my research, there were certainly things that came up that I really hadn't put a lot of thought into until I was in the midst of that.
I think you have some of my talking points in front of you. Really, I tend to just talk and not write things down. I hope the little points here are things you guys can see.
A big one was early engagement. Speaking to a community when a project is still an idea is very important. There are different issues about whether or not the community is even interested in projects.
Before I went back to school to pursue my bachelor's, my master's and my doctoral degrees, I worked as the economic development coordinator for the tribal council in my community. Part of that work led me to surveying people to see what kinds of things we were interested in pursuing as a community.
Some of the obvious things that came up were tourism and various things of that nature, but many people in my community weren't actually interested in those. They didn't want a lot of people coming into the community. Just having those kinds of conversations at the onset of some projects is really important and can't be stressed enough.
Also, there's the question whether or not various projects are appropriate. There are people who have different belief systems, and so understanding what is important at the community level is something that I think should also be looked at.
Also, with early engagement we could look at whether some people might be able to help with instruction about whether a plan is actually a good one. Looking at things from maps and other ways in which information is presented when you're starting the planning isn't necessarily the same as accessing the knowledge that is held within a community. A thing isn't going to be accessible just because the project is on, for instance, a flatter part of the topography; you may not know that this is where there are bears or where there's a swamp. Those kinds of things are really important for planning some bigger projects and planning for projects within a community.
The next point concerns communication. To us it would mean speaking with the community members and also being available to answer questions in more than a “check the box” kind of way. It's not just one-way communication, but also communicating and being accessible to not only describe what you see is going to happen but being available for those conversations is concerned. People put a lot of stock in being heard.
This speaks to the next point I noted regarding cultural expectations and whether we're looking at community participation and the resources that are around these projects and the way those resources are going to be affected. I alluded to the way people look at some energy projects. An elder once had told me that he didn't believe that all of the wind farms were actually important. He thought they were disrupting not only the flow of the way the birds were migrating, but other sorts of things like that.
It's just a matter of taking a minute to understand the potential effects. As indigenous people, in our communities we look at things from a very holistic perspective. Everything we do affects all other parts of our communities and cultures. The cultural expectation of what is important to the community is, I think, really important to think about. So is understanding of the goals of the project. Are the goals of the project to increase capacity? Are they to generate income? Are they to reduce the way we are dependent on fossil fuels? Having those goals set out with the community is certainly very important.
When we talk about the goals of a project and how they're going to affect people at the community level and how important it is to engage indigenous communities, one really big thing that we have to think about is that there's a very limited capacity to engage in our communities both financially and in terms of time.
Even in my own research, being a very small project, some of the things that came up were that there are very small populations. Within these small populations, there's an even smaller subset of people who are kind of champions in the communities and who are trusted to fulfill leadership roles. People trust them to speak for them at different levels.
It's making sure that is looked at and also supported. By supported, I mean that it's important to give people funding so that they have both the time and the capacity to provide very thoughtful and meaningful engagement with the project.
Finally, the last note I had was that the timelines with these sorts of projects are culturally sensitive. It's understanding, for instance, that our region in the summertime is very busy. That's usually when people go out and do research, and they start building projects and different things. That's also when people are fishing, when the salmon are running. That's when these other things are happening.
As kind of an anecdote, when I was doing my dissertation research in my communities, I had planned to do the surveying in the summer. However, people were just not home. I would call, and people would say they were out berry picking and didn't expect to be home until the next day, or whenever. Unless I was willing to go and pick berries with them.... I mean, it may seem like you're not working or you're not doing what you have set out to do, but those kinds of things are [Technical difficulty—Editor]
I guess I would just say that a lot of these small—
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to present to you and have this discussion with this important committee.
I am the Arctic Athabaskan Council's international chair. We also are members of the Arctic Council as permanent participants. We represent approximately 50,000 people in Alaska, the Yukon and Northwest Territories. Generally in Canada we're called Dene, but in the books you'll find that the people in Alaska are called Athabaskans, so we have the name Arctic Athabaskan Council.
I want to focus on the existing agreements we already have that need to be put into practice and confirmed. Especially in Canada, we have, as you know, section 35 in the Canadian Constitution Act, 1982, which solidifies and makes clear that the rights we have are constitutional rights and are separate from the other rights that Canadian people have. Based on section 35, then, they are separate from the Constitution's section 91 powers that the federal government has or the section 92 powers that the provinces have.
The country is based on those three main areas. As such, when we're looking at developing a particular resource, whether it's in Canada or the United States, we have to look at the international instruments we have.
I'm originally from Yellowknife. I'm a member of Treaty No. 8. In the early 1970s, we took the treaties to the Canadian courts. Canada's position was that we may have had rights at one time, but because of the treaties and legislation, our rights were extinguished. The court case proved, in what is commonly called the Paulette case, that indeed we have rights, that they continue to exist. Our treaties were peace and friendship instruments between the Dene and the Crown—Great Britain—and not between Canada and the Dene, because Canada didn't have the authority to enter into treaties at that time.
The judgment also went so far as to say that the rights we have need to be protected by Canada and that we still retain title to our lands, so aboriginal title or Dene title exists. That was in 1973. Those agreements need to be put into practice by you as a government, and we include the opposition parties as part of the government when we talk about government.
With that, the relationship we have is based on trust. It's based on those early agreements. There are other agreements that you need to understand and look at.
There is the Jay treaty of 1794, which was more in the southern part of Canada but included all the tribes of North America and Great Britain and the United States. What it did was it encouraged continued trade, barter and sales across the Canada-U.S. border. Unfortunately, Canada no longer supports the agreement, although the United States does. That's primarily because of the War of 1812, when the U.S. tried to annex Canada, as you know. The whole thinking behind that treaty was to stabilize the economy, and that's what you're thinking about, so I think you have to understand that treaty and look at what the doctrine talks about.
There are other treaties that you need to be aware of. There's a recent court decision from December 2018 dealing with the Robinson-Huron treaty between the Anishinabe and Great Britain. They took the treaty to court, and the judgment came down a couple of months ago, a very important one. It talks about the annuities that the people receive through that agreement, which is an annual payment.
The agreement said that the fee would increase over time. It has only increased once since 1874, and it increased from two dollars to four dollars. They took that to court. The judgment came down, saying that the intent was never for that amount to be a stale amount, that it was to be increased. The court agreed to raise the four dollar annuity. To quote an article, “The judge ruled the annuities are to now be unlimited in their scope as they are intended as a mechanism to share the wealth generated by the resources within the treaty territory.” In other words, there is no ceiling on the amount that people ought to get. What's happening now is that these first nations are negotiating with the Crown as to what the increases should look like.
The important aspect here is that these treaties were meant to afford some of the wealth from the land within their territory. It includes the Province of Ontario and the federal government. That whole arrangement now has to get sorted out.
I think you need to look at some of these court cases because it opens up some of the things you're thinking of. I can't provide you all of those answers, but I'll give you some other examples.
The Tla-o-qui-aht land claims and self-government agreement, which came into effect in 2004 after many decades of negotiating, and also the Déline self-government agreement in the Northwest Territories, which was put together in 2016, provides them with opportunities, whole chapters on economics. On international matters the Tla-o-qui-aht agreement provides a whole chapter on how Canada has to engage with them, so it's already spelled out within these constitutionally entrenched agreements. The Nisga'a self-government agreement in the province of B.C. is very similar. The Inuit also have that in the territories. The provincial settings, which are different, set up those arrangements.
There is great concern with the foreign investment promotion and protection agreement, commonly called FIPA, between Canada and China. This agreement gives sweeping authority to companies outside Canada and because of the mechanisms in place to settle disputes, that doesn't give us in Canada the authority we normally would have because of the structure of decision-making. This concerns a lot of our people.
The saving grace—and this is what I think you need to study—is that these original treaties were designed to not only protect indigenous peoples, but to protect everyone in the country. For example, Treaty 11, the last numbered treaty, which was in 1921, goes all the way up to the Arctic coast and beyond into international waters, which essentially settles the question of who owns the Northwest Passage.
Use those agreements to your advantage. That's what they are there for, and I am obviously encouraging you to do that with our people.
It's a given that you're looking at this whole economic question with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, UNDRIP. It says that coming into our territories, you need the free, prior and informed consent of our people. I don't think we need to comment much on that.
As for some other thoughts, first, we know that some of our first nations, as Ms. Mack said earlier, really don't have the capacity to do the kind of work they want to do. They're slowly getting to the point where impact benefit agreements now are becoming common, but they're not really dealing with the question of wealth or the ownership of the resource. It's a short means to help the communities. It gives priorities to jobs and so on.
I think what we need to do is assist communities so that they can develop industrial development protocols. If an industry wants to come into a particular territory, the protocol defines who they ought to deal with. Is it the chief and council? Is it the elders council? Is it the tribal council and so on? Then there's a framework that everyone can work within.
I know I'm getting short on time, Mr. Chair, so I'll leave that for now. I can add comments as questions come forward.
We have tribal sovereignty here in Alaska. That means that we are recognized. There is a tribal affairs committee that has been just established at the State of Alaska level. Our last governor, Bill Walker, recognized that tribal governments are our governments and so they do have the opportunity to be consulted. That is very important.
There are also Arctic protocols for engaging with communities, which are written down, and they are out there, especially on the north slope. I know there is basically a format, informed consent, as ways they would like to be engaged. Moving forward, I think that's something that we could all look to being more proactive about expanding, and also due diligence as to ensuring we're talking with local people and the governments there.
You're right that there are multiple stakeholders within a community, and so we appreciate your reaching out to us, as Aleut International. We could certainly help you to get a list of other people who should be involved in these kinds of topics. It's a matter of understanding that it's not only one organization that needs to be consulted, but it's a good starting point and it's also a good way to get that ball rolling and make sure people are informed. People do want to be involved, and they do want to have their voices heard and to be reached out to. Sometimes that's all it is. They want to know what's going on and they would like you to ask them specifically.
It's a good place to say that, as an indigenous organization, we don't speak for everybody, but we do have a way of being able to point you in the right direction, so that people feel their voices are heard.
Thanks to both of our witnesses for being here.
I'm going to take a few moments to address something. I hope the witnesses will indulge me. Then I look forward to getting to a couple of questions. Also, in our second round, I can continue to explore these issues with you.
Chair, I need to move a motion, which I'm going to do, calling the minister to appear before our committee to discuss the supplementary estimates. As we all know, we have only one committee meeting left before the government tables its new budget. Given what happened last time, with a lack of commitment for the minister to come here and a last-minute cancellation, making it too late to discuss the supplementary estimates, which resulted in a general conversation about mandates and priorities, I'm certain that every member of this committee will support the motion to have the minister appear.
I know you've been back and forth with the minister. I understand that. I have a sense of when you're hoping he'll be able to be here. However, perhaps by moving this formal motion and with our unanimous support, it will compel the minister to respond to our chair and commit to a time to come here.
It's important because in estimates the minister has committed $1.5 billion from the Department of Natural Resources to the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development for engagement activities related to the Taltson hydroelectricity project to support indigenous engagement. Certainly in the context of our study on this very issue, having the minister appear to discuss it would be top of mind to all government members here.
Of course, the has also committed over $17 million for the National Energy Board reconsideration and the additional indigenous consultation they're required to do on the Trans Mountain expansion.
It's our view that Canadians obviously deserve to hear how that money is being used and if it's being used, and to ask questions. It's our responsibility to ask the minister questions on behalf of all Canadians, who we represent. If there is full confidence in the , there should be no hesitation in supporting this motion and calling him to appear, to be accountable for these funds. Of course, that's his duty, certainly in light, too, of the ongoing uncertainty around the Trans Mountain expansion and in the context of the recent report from the NEB, which was the longest, costliest and most redundant option that the minister chose after the Federal Court of Appeal ruling.
Also, in the context of the Liberal cabinet, it already seems to be indicating that they might take longer than the 90 days after the NEB report to make another decision and recommendation on the Trans Mountain expansion that now all Canadians own because of the 's decisions.
I would expect that every member of this committee would vote yes to having the minister here as soon as possible. Of course, I would think, if any member does vote no, it would reflect a lack of confidence in the in an attempt to block him from coming here to be accountable to Canadians.
Therefore, I move
That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the Standing Committee on Natural Resources request the Minister of Natural Resources, and representatives from the National Energy Board appear, at their earliest possible convenience, on the Supplementary Estimates (B); and that this meeting be televised.
Thanks, I appreciate that.
Thank you to both of the witnesses for being here and for your testimony as we consider international best practices for engaging indigenous communities, particularly in Canada's context, with the challenges around indigenous consultation on major energy and other natural resource projects.
I wonder if each of you might be able to shed some light on a challenge relating to indigenous engagement on energy projects when it comes to who exactly would be the decision-makers or the ideal people at the table with the government representative, the government representative being one who has decision-making authority and can make reasonable accommodations based on concerns and feedback from indigenous communities.
I raise this because there have been a couple of examples recently that we heard about in this committee, for example, with the Lax Kw'alaams on the north coast of B.C., whose elected leaders had supported the establishment of an LNG project there. There were also individuals who claimed to be hereditary leaders of the community, and their perspective, which they certainly had a right to express, was opposed to the potential LNG project that the elected leaders supported. They claimed to be representatives of the band, and they opposed the LNG project against the will of the elected leadership. That matter was later settled in court, where a judge ruled that the person was not, in fact, a hereditary leader.
Sometimes there are differences in the Canadian context. For example, at this committee we've had representatives of the Assembly of First Nations come here to attempt to give an overarching perspective on behalf of indigenous communities, but there are many representatives of individual indigenous communities who say the representatives of the AFN don't speak for them or don't necessarily reflect their views or positions.
Chief Erasmus and Dr. Mack, do you have any feedback for us on how to sort through the complications with regard to who should be consulted with and who should be making the ultimate decisions in that consultation process?
Dr. Mack, Chief Erasmus is giving you the green light to go first.
Thank you very much for the question. It's an important question. It's something that we deal with not only when we're talking about large energy projects, but also when we're talking about research and when we're talking about infrastructure within our communities, as to what's best.
I mentioned that in the past, I was doing economic development work in my community and also doing research in my community. It's a fine line. There are differences. There are the principles for conduct of research in the Arctic, and then within that, there are guidelines about ways to engage.
When we think about that, in Alaska, generally speaking, I would defer to my tribal council and the people who are elected leaders. You are going to have differing opinions. That speaks to giving yourself enough time to collect information to make an informed decision. That goes to the things I mentioned earlier, communication, early engagement and understanding the goals and the capacity you have within a community so that you get a holistic understanding of not only the cultural context, but also what's important economically.
In my hometown of King Cove, we have two energy projects. Ours was one of the first hydroelectric projects in all of Alaska to come on board. We've since put in a second one, so we've had some experience with this kind of thing.
As we talked about prior, on opening up the outer continental shelf, there were certainly two different sides and opposing views of how that should work and whether that should even happen. Being a coastal fishing community, and that being the cornerstone of our culture, of course there were people who did not think that was a good idea, and there were people who did. I think that it speaks to due diligence and making sure that you have the financial support to engage in those communities to feel it out for yourself and feel it out for what that project is.
In Alaska I would defer to my tribal leaders, and I would also talk to the leaders of the corporations to see that they also represent us as indigenous people. I would give yourselves enough time to talk to everybody to see what's important, as every community is different.
Thank you for bringing that up. I'm not entirely familiar with the specifics of that agreement, but it looks like they're organizing themselves around that whole concept.
If you look at Treaty 8, it doesn't encompass all of the Treaty 8 area, because Treaty 8 was put into place before Alberta and Saskatchewan were provinces. Alberta and Saskatchewan were part of the Northwest Territories at that time.
There are pre-existing rights that need to be recognized. In other words, you might want to set up a protocol with the whole treaty area, which would now include present-day B.C., the Northwest Territories, part of Alberta and Saskatchewan. We'd welcome that because the tar sands development is in Treaty 8. We don't benefit from it. I won't get into all those details, but we'd be really eager to talk about developing a plan where we could look at getting rid of the tailings ponds.
In this day and age, 2019, there shouldn't be tailings ponds, because they leach into the environment, and they come north. It's proven that there are toxic chemicals like arsenic in the watershed that affect us and go all the way to the Beaufort Sea, which goes into international waters.
We would talk about that. We would talk about resource revenue sharing and how to look at international markets. That is an example and I encourage you to continue looking at it.
Well, I think it's a bit more complex than just answering whether or not economic development corporations can be effective. The corporations that were started in Alaska were actually started as part of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act which passed in 1971, and so we all, by default, became part owners in the land, as shareholders. It certainly changed the landscape of Alaska. It took a lot of our resources from being community-driven resources to being a fiduciary responsibility to a smaller portion of our population.
That being said, there are varying degrees of what “success” means. Some people and some corporations do have larger dividends, and they've been able to establish a bunch of infrastructure within their communities. Other ones have not been as successful. In some ways, that measurement of success we're talking about is very arbitrary. For one group, it might be one thing, and for another group, it might be something else.
I think there are ways that this has been good, and I think it's arguable that this isn't the right way. To go back to Mr. Schmale's question, it really depends on who you're talking to and what the goals are. That, really, is something else I brought up before: understanding what the goals of a project are in order to make sure the community buy-in is there and understanding what it does for the people who are going to be affected.
I do think that economic development is important in our communities. We have very few resources outside of our natural resources, and so using them in a way that is culturally appropriate and that also ensures we can remain in our landscape is very important. Striking a balance, I think, is certainly what we should keep in mind.
The questions are very interesting. I'm going to try to deal with both of those questions in the answer.
I think when you approach the first nations, you have to approach them as a collective. Don't go to them as individual communities or bands, because they're part of a greater collective. I'll give you an example.
As recently as a couple of weeks ago, there was an announcement on Vancouver Island that they have put the proposed LNG facility on hold. The communities in that area gave a huge sigh of relief because what happened was the company came in and dealt with only one community, when there are many, many, many communities. They came in and chose one community to get onside, and then their job was to get everyone else onside. There was this huge discussion going on and people were beginning to dig their heels in and say, “Just a minute. We want to understand all of this and we have a say.” Now that it's on hold, everyone's going, “Thank God.” They can breathe again.
Say this proposal comes back. What they need to do is to go to that whole tribal council, which is the 15 communities, and say, “This is what we're looking at”, and ask them how to go about it, and they'd advise them. Yes, we have—and you'll find this right across the country—corporations in place. They've been well established over the years, but they will not proceed unless the leadership gives them the go-ahead, the political people tell the economic people to engage. Those practices are already in place.
I know that capacity isn't always about funding. It's also about being able to give people the time to properly engage with the ideas you're presenting and the projects being presented.
The people I talked to in my dissertation research all served on boards and their city councils, all these different things. Usually within a community you have a very small number of people participating in all these things.
For example, I think one man was on four or five boards for about 40 years. Think about all of the things he has had to read, to do and to be involved in, and a lot of those things are volunteer. A lot of times when we're talking about capacity and being invited to go to meetings and to speak on these things, a lot of those things are done out of the kindness of your heart.
When we're inviting people's opinions and for them to be consulted about things, they need to be compensated—and not just compensated because you're giving them good advice or different things, but also to be able to pay for the time they're spending to read reports about impact statements and to be able to do background so they can understand it.
[Inaudible—Editor] is multiple, not just in giving the time but also making sure that we give them the opportunity to give you good advice.