Good afternoon, everybody.
My name is Grant Sullivan. I'm the director of energy for the Nihtat Corporation. In the north we wear multiple hats, so I'm also on the Gwich’in Council International, but I'll be representing the Nihtat Corporation today.
I'd like to thank the committee for inviting me here today.
I am from Inuvik, Northwest Territories, a community of 3,200 people on the Mackenzie delta 200 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, where the sun does not shine for 30 days a year but glows for two months straight in the summer.
My comments today will relate to the Nihtat Gwich'in experience with energy projects in the Inuvik region.
The Nihtat Corporation is wholly owned by the Nihtat Gwich'in Council located in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, with the Gwich'in settlement area. The Nihtat Gwich'in is one of the four designated Gwich'in organizations established under the Gwich'in Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement, one of the modern land claim agreements that exchange undefined aboriginal rights for defined treaty rights.
The Nihtat Gwich'in are landowners and rights holders, and well as decision-makers for our lands. We believe that sustainable economic development will come through homegrown solutions by people who know our communities and who know how to adapt projects and ideas to our local circumstances so that they are achievable and enduring.
The mandate of the Nihtat Corporation is to enhance the quality of life of Gwich'in participants through the creation of and participation in meaningful economic opportunities in a sustainable and responsible environment.
My remarks today will focus on suggestions for best practices that come from my practical experience as an indigenous business person leading projects in, and on behalf of, my community.
In my view, existing approaches to project development need to be expanded to accommodate evolving views and perspectives regarding consultation, engagement and investment, and to remove existing roadblocks to indigenous participation and investment.
There is growing recognition today that the environment for doing business with indigenous peoples must evolve beyond simple community engagement undertaken during project planning to include consideration of, first, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the principle of free, prior and informed consent; and second, the Truth and Reconciliation calls to action.
Call to action 92 calls for corporate sector commitment “to meaningful consultation, building respectful relationships, and obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous peoples before proceeding with economic development projects.”
I will offer two broad recommendations today on the path forward, based on my experience with energy projects in Inuvik.
My first recommendation is to shift focus from externally driven major projects to empowering indigenous communities to develop energy projects that reflect community values and provide long-term benefits to the community.
At this time there are no large-scale energy projects being planned in Inuvik or in the wider Gwich'in settlement area. However, the community has significant past experience related to the failed development of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline project. This experience and the experience with the Inuvik high point wind project underline the need for a new approach to development going forward that is community driven as opposed to being externally driven.
After discussing each of these briefly, I would like to tell you about a new approach taken by the Nihtat toward planning and development of renewable generation in our community.
The experience with the Mackenzie Valley pipeline highlights shortcomings inherent in relying on large international companies to drive development in our communities.
The pipeline was originally proposed in the early 1970s, six years before I was born, but has yet to be built today.
The participants in the pipeline were some of the largest oil and gas companies in the world, such as ConocoPhillips, Shell, Imperial Oil and ExxonMobil. When the project was rebooted in the 1990s, it also included a provision for 33% ownership by the Gwich'in, Sahtu and Inuvialuit people.
The decision to permit the pipeline in the 1970s was delayed by the Berger inquiry. Later efforts to resurrect the pipeline also failed.
In December 2017, it was announced that the conglomerate developing the pipeline would dissolve and the pipeline, with an estimated cost of $16 billion, would not be built. After this announcement, the local community was left to figure out how to pick up the pieces and carry on.
This experience taught me that in order to succeed, energy projects need to start with and be driven by the community. This helps ensure that projects are planned in a manner that aligns with the community's interests and needs.
The Inuvik high point wind project is currently being planned and developed by the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Northwest Territories Power Corporation within the Gwich'in settlement area. Here we have a small, local renewable project planned to displace fossil fuel generated on an isolated remote grid.
Two stages of the feasibility assessment were taken between 2016 and 2018 as part of the planning for this project. For each feasibility assessment, a competitive tender was issued, and in each case the Nihtat, partnering with other consulting firms, bid on the work and won. This allowed the Nihtat to have active involvement in the project planning and development, and in my view, the Government of Northwest Territories and the Northwest Territories Power Corporation benefited from our local knowledge and insight into the project.
Being involved in the project planning in this manner was critical to our understanding of the project and planning for the local electrical grid. While a two- to four-megawatt wind project is small by most standards, it would be a big deal for this community and our local grid. However, while the Nihtat were keenly interested in advancing the project, there was no long-term Government of Northwest Territories or NTPC strategy to ensure an ongoing role for the Nihtat or for the community, beyond project development and construction.
As announced on November 13, 2018, the $40 million of funding needed to proceed with this wind project has been committed by Canada and the Northwest Territories government. The project is currently poised to proceed.
An investment opportunity was proposed by the Government of Northwest Territories for the local Gwich'in; however, the terms offered by the GNWT provided negligible, if any, benefits for the community and were not reasonable, attractive or acceptable to us. Failure to resolve this one key requirement is the only obstacle today preventing this very worthwhile local project from proceeding.
The Nihtat Corporation is advancing a number of small renewable energy projects at this time that are driven by local interest and needs, and will build local capacity and develop long-term revenue streams for the community from renewables. I would like to take a few minutes to highlight some of these developments.
With funding support from the northern REACHE program, initial studies were taken to understand the cost of fossil fuel generation in Inuvik and the other Beaufort delta communities. With further funding, support was translated into a broader study related to understanding potential fossil fuel uses, costs and greenhouse gas emissions by sector for the Beaufort delta communities, as well as an assessment of options to reduce fossil fuels uses.
The Nihtat began to look seriously at options for solar development in Inuvik. With funding through CERRC and CanNor, the Nihtat is pursuing a number of smaller renewable projects focused on reducing fossil fuels in Inuvik. These are locally driven and owned, and will provide long-term business opportunities and revenue stream for the Nihtat.
Developments currently in the planning stage and planned to be completed this summer, 2019, include ground-mounted solar installations for two commercial properties and the installation of solar panels on the rooftops of 32 residential homes. These are exciting opportunities for the Nihtat and for the community.
My second recommendation is that long-lived capital investments should provide the opportunity for project benefits and community involvement that extend beyond project planning and construction. This may include equity ownership, partnership and having indigenous proponents.
Impact and benefit agreements and favourable procurement practices have a role in creating indigenous business opportunities; however, these are short-term measures that tend to focus on planning and construction. These measures often do not provide the long-term opportunities or involvement that the communities are seeking.
In our Inuvik region, for example, the structure of how federal investments are flowed through the territorial government has become a major impediment to indigenous development. This has been experienced by the Nihtat Corporation. In our experience, restrictive conditions are added at the territorial level that result in the indigenous organization having less leeway to negotiate favourable contracts.
We see policy objectives for renewables to displace existing fossil fuel heating in our regional GNWT buildings, but to date there has been no effective Government of Northwest Territories policy established to work together successfully with indigenous investment on these projects.
The Government of Northwest Territories' energy strategy lays out two paths for community participation in renewable electrical generation.
The first one is that the community invests in its own electrical project with payments from the electrical utility based on the value of diesel fuel displaced by the renewable. The second is that the community or indigenous government provide debt financing for the government or the Northwest Territories Power Corporation with payments at a low-risk return, consistent with the investment terms of the GNWT. However, we see renewable electricity caps and other GNWT and Northwest Territories Power Corporation conditions that effectively limit the future development of renewables in Inuvik. Despite an increasingly favourable investment climate, indigenous-owned corporations do not have access to financing at the same rate that the Government of the Northwest Territories does.
We were talking about best practices for indigenous engagement. I just want to tell you that the best practices are here in B.C. That's the way the LNG project got approved for LNG Canada. It was a $40-billion project and it was 15 years in the making. I know they've been in B.C. for six years, but really it's 15 years since LNG first came to our table.
It's been a painful exercise, because in 2004 when the Haida court case came out—the duty to consult and accommodate—nobody really understood what that was, including first nations. Everybody is trying to figure this out.
In the three years after the court case came out, industry and governments were still following the same old playbook. It was basically just come and sit and talk to the first nations, but there was no real sincerity about doing anything. There were a lot of hard meetings there that were taken. I'll just give you an example of some of the things that were said at our table from industry after the court case came out. This is what industry said to us at our table. “We are here to listen, but we're not obligated to do anything. You know the federal government fully supports our project.” My favourite one was always, “Our interests are more important than yours.”
Look at the context of what was going on in my territory, Kitimat. At one time it had the highest per capita wage earners in Canada, but if you went seven miles down the road to my community, we had nothing. We were broke. We were in deficit. Canada was always coming in and threatening us with remedial management and third party management, but we turned that around. Once we turned it around to become a healthy organization, we turned our efforts towards economic development, specifically engagement with major project development.
I started as a council member in 2003. I worked there for eight years before I became a chief. Then I resigned as chief to run as an MLA, to see if I could get LNG across the finish line. However, in those days, in 2003, I believed the rhetoric that industry was bad, the government was bad, the white man was bad, and we needed to kick them all out. It wasn't until my fellow councillors told me that I should review some more of the issues, especially on poverty and unemployment, that I realized I was living the wrong story.
I turned my attention to how I could fix the poverty and unemployment. The programs we developed were mainly around reducing the welfare list, which didn't make any sense, as I concluded a year later. They also revolved around education, which also didn't make any sense after a year, because in both cases there was no opportunity for a job.
If anything, when I realized I had to change my approach, there were two things I wanted to do: empower individual first nations members in my community, and get my council off the dependency of federal program dollars.
When we're talking about the LNG story in B.C., we're talking mainly about the approach the B.C. government took. They came to it kicking and screaming, just like everybody else. In most cases, I saw a distinct difference between the way the province was consulting versus the feds. I understood it. Ottawa is too far removed.
However, B.C. was consulting on the ground on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. They're still consulting today on the permits that have to be implemented under the environmental assessments. At the same time, I had to change the mentality and the approach of my people towards our structure, towards economic development and towards engagement with government.
In 2010, I hired my first lobbyist for the council. The directive to him was that he should teach us about government—teach us about what government is trying to achieve. When my council realized that we were trying to actually achieve the same things, it paved the way for LNG, especially in 2012, when Christy Clark came to help us get LNG across the finish line.
Back then, as chief councillor, my request to my members was to find a way to raise the welfare rates. I even got a request from a band member to co-sign for a truck, even though he didn't have a job. Today, because of the LNG agreements, the conversation is completely different, absolutely turned around on its head.
Now we have the younger generation—I'm talking 30 or 40 years old and younger—not wanting any council help. They're not wanting handouts. They're getting mortgages in their own right, buying their own vehicles and going on holidays. Going on a holiday might seem like a trite type of perk when you're talking about first nations, but we're talking about people who could never even fly to Vancouver, let alone the Philippines, Las Vegas or beyond.
I know you guys are short on time here, but some of the things I see that held us up and are continuing to hold up first nations in B.C. are in three categories: politics, misguided policies and manipulation.
In terms of politics, there is still this narrative here that somehow we have to keep first nations with programs and program dollars. There's this idea that somehow we have to get them back on the land, when on the other hand first nations are already combining those two interests on their own. They don't need that from any level of government.
If anything, if we're talking about what is good practice in terms of getting a project across the finish line, we're talking about implementing case law. We're talking about implementing the Haida decision, and we're talking about section 35 of the Constitution, because those principles are actually fairly sound. There's not some distinct road map that comes underneath it, but those principles are good principles for everybody to follow. That's what made LNG successful in B.C. Now we're starting to go the other way.
The other way I'm talking about is the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. I don't oppose this. What I don't understand is what the principles behind it are. How do you define it? How do you legislate it, given the principles of case law and how all three parties in terms of LNG are all starting to understand the rules of the game, and we're all trying to go after a common goal?
I'm seeing this in the legislature in B.C. One of the biggest issues in B.C. was consent versus veto. I could see the politics around it. In fact, the B.C. government in its environmental assessment categorized consent such that it will allow the first nation in question to have consent, but only in specific areas, and only if the government allows them to have it.
I don't think that's what the first nations were thinking about, and this is the problem with UNDRIP. In my opinion, UNDRIP came 37 years too late for B.C. We could have used that before section 35 of the Constitution came in 1982, but right now Canada and B.C. have defined rights and title in consultation to such a high degree. Why do we want to undo all this with vague, unclear principles that aren't based in case law?
This is very confusing for the layman, but it's very clear for the leaders at the B.C. level, leaders at the federal level and progressive first nations leaders who can see a road map to prosperity and away from the poverty and unemployment.
The manipulation I'm talking about is mainly coming from what is a big topic nowadays, and that's foreign influence. I came across this last year when I reviewed Vivian Krause's work there. By the way, I thought she was a conspiracy theorist as well, but when I looked at her facts, I started to see what she was researching in terms of the money coming across the border, the organizations actually using it and the charitable foundations that were abusing the legislation of Canada. I could see that this is a bigger problem than what was happening in my community.
Unfortunately, the aboriginal leaders in question don't see this. They are either ignorant about the whole issue, or they are apathetic. That's why this is basically being allowed to continue in first nations communities.
But 22 elected first nations leaders from Prince George to Kitimat and down the channel actually all approved LNG with no foreign influence, no third party influence, no NGOs, nothing. Now the question is who has authority in B.C. Is it elected leaders, or is it hereditary leaders?
When people talk about this foreign influence and these NGOs that are using this money coming across the border, they think it's just one direct campaign when in actuality it's not. This money and the organizations that do this spread their influence in a number of different ways, and they don't just go out directly to oppose projects. They actually spread their funding around and spread their people and resources around to different organizations and different people.
You'll find them in different ways. To the first nations' credit, a lot of the first nations on the LNG project started to keep them out. They said, “No, that's not our mandate. We're not trying to shut down projects. We're trying to raise the level of environmental standards here and we're trying to incorporate cultural standards”, which actually happened in the LNG project in B.C.
In terms of best practices, the last thing I'll leave you with is that LNG in B.C. is a good story. The road map in terms of how it was done is a road map for best practices, but there are two big problems I see structurally with first nations in B.C. if we want to continue this. The first nations are sorely lacking in corporate memory, and they're sorely lacking in continuity. Whatever was done two or three years ago, or whatever that direction is, that can be undone in a few short years, because the institution is just not designed for long-term viability.
For the record, my name is Nils Andreassen. I'm the executive director of the Alaska Municipal League. It's in that capacity, and as the former director of the Institute of the North, that I am speaking to you today. I want to be clear that I am not speaking for, or on behalf of, indigenous peoples. Really, I want to reflect on roughly a decade's worth of work with the Arctic Council and with northern peoples. My comments will be in that regard.
I was able to facilitate a workshop in partnership with the Arctic Council just a few years back that was related to this topic of good practices and meaningful engagement. I'll read through some of the summary notes from that and then be ready to answer questions more specifically on some Alaska examples.
“Good” practice is challenging to define. For a government agency, good might mean consistent with current law and customary practice, and the ability to be impartial but responsive. For a project proponent, efficient but effective may be considered good, as they are concerned with timeliness as well as the outcomes of a decision. Generally speaking, decisions will reflect good practice when they work the best for most, and include or respond to all points of view. A good practice will allow an agency or government to quantitatively understand and assess impacts.
At the community level and for indigenous peoples, good practice will feel right if the ultimate decision is values-driven and reflects local feedback. Good practices should include effective coordination between agencies, between project proponents and the community, and between rights holders within the region. Good practices should include engagement that occurs early and often, and ultimately long before decision-making. That engagement doesn't stop with a decision, but the decision should be reported back to a community, with an explanation of how local and indigenous input was included. Good practices should include inclusiveness that spans different types of user groups and also types of knowledge or cultural context. They should also include the co-production of knowledge, which will result in the research used within that process, and have local and indigenous knowledge holders involved in each component of that process.
Meaningful engagement will reflect these practices. Meaningful engagement should feel like an equitable partnership between indigenous peoples, local rights holders and government agencies. This should be developed well before a project, but be demonstrated within a decision-making process with robust communication, inclusion and respect. One of the challenges, however, of meaningful engagement is to determine the extent to which local and indigenous input impacts a project decision. How is that input weighted? Ultimately, who gets to decide whether a project should move forward or not?
The meaningful engagement of indigenous peoples goes well beyond consultation and includes both formal and informal versions. It enhances a project through the application of traditional knowledge and the inclusion of traditional knowledge holders. The idea of building relationships with communities goes well beyond consultation or most review processes. It extends into every facet of government, industry and research activities. The goals from this relationship-building are to understand indigenous cultures and knowledge, and to ultimately result in trust and respect for the region and peoples.
The history of projects and research in the region finds that time and time again, mistakes were made when local peoples were not included, and value derived when they were. Projects, whether driven by research or industry, are more successful when local and indigenous knowledge is embedded in the design, implementation and decision-making. The meaningful engagement of indigenous peoples results not just in better results or understanding but also in increased safety related to activities in the region.
As sovereigns, indigenous governments demand a more robust level of engagement and corresponding expectations. Expectations can range from being informed early in a project scoping, or even before scoping occurs, to follow-up throughout the life of a project. Multiple meetings with government agencies require multiple follow-up engagements that answer questions or provide additional information. Government decision-making should reflect a balanced approach to the need for economic development—including jobs to local residents, revenue to local governments and mitigation measures—and environmental protection and food security.
The disconnect between resources extracted from a remote region and the revenue that is reinvested creates a real sense of anger within a community that is struggling to see better education, public safety, lower energy costs, etc. Indigenous people should see their values reflected within a decision. This is how communities will know that they have been listened to and engaged with meaningfully. Values-driven decision-making will be a significant result of meaningful engagement, and ultimately it will be indigenous peoples who will determine whether an engagement has been meaningful or a practice best.
The diversity within a region requires a strong understanding of the relationships between and roles and authorities of individual rights holders. These different rights holders have different capacities to engage in an engagement process, and successful engagement often depends on collaboration. Those partners with greater capacity often act as conduits to or as go-betweens for other partners. The value of having capacity at the regional level is that coordination is more likely to result in informed rights holders.
Beyond the formal role of some rights holders, innovative approaches have been taken to ensure regional co-operation and communication. Regional organizations can be established to act as intermediaries between the communities and government agencies or project proponents. The goals here are not to replace or displace local rights holders, but to ensure effective engagement and to advocate in the interests of indigenous peoples in the region.
The role of intermediaries isn't to speak for indigenous peoples or communities, but to help facilitate meaningful engagement where none had existed. Additionally, intermediaries can serve to educate agencies and project proponents about the region. Regional government, for instance, already has resources that can be useful to a decision-making process, including community plans and regional plans.
Agencies often ask researchers before asking local peoples. Western science is approached and included first, as the baseline, after which indigenous peoples and knowledge are brought in. A better practice would be to organize these jointly. Consultation should inform a process from the beginning, with engagement throughout such that it isn't used just to comment upon already established research, project design and decisions.
Communities are experiencing fatigue from continuous engagement with little benefit. In general, consultation isn't reimbursed, promises to follow up aren't kept and decisions don't reflect what local peoples have said. There is little incentive to participate, beyond the dramatic potential negative impact that non-participation would result in.
Adaptive management requires adaptive institutions instead of requiring indigenous peoples to adapt. That management can and should include indigenous peoples and the increase we're seeing in co-management opportunities reflect some movement toward this goal. In many ways, the rights of indigenous peoples are embedded in their role in co-management such that they ensure and have control over their future.
Often the meaningful engagement of indigenous peoples is difficult for an agency if it means loss of control or decision-making authority, but collaboration is a key to overall success and agencies must be responsive.
In conclusion, where projects are successful, they have returned benefit to communities and engaged meaningfully. This is the result of partnerships that have been developed over time.
Thanks to all our witnesses for being here.
This last part of the conversation I think is also attached to similar concerns. We've all heard repeatedly about sufficient capacity and resourcing, even for participation in the regulatory review process. Certainly, indigenous communities engaging with companies and resource proponents for development is clearly a long-standing challenge, which obviously governments of all stripes will have to contend with. They are a key part in continuing to improve indigenous consultation on major resources projects, about which I know we are all concerned.
Mr. Ross, I have a couple of questions related to some of the comments you made in your presentation. You talked about the importance of empowering individual first nations through ensuring they have information to make informed decisions about resource proposals, and the priority to reduce poverty and increase jobs for indigenous communities.
You touched on something that I think Canadians are hearing more and more about, related to this potential disagreement between elected leaders of indigenous communities and other forms of leadership, such as hereditary leaders.
Mayor John Helin of the Lax Kw'alaams Band was here at committee on February 5. He talked about the other point you made, how the foreign-funded, anti-energy activists were undermining the economic ambitions of first nations who want to develop their own resources. In his case, they came into the community and sowed division among community members and band leadership. They were claiming and posing publicly as hereditary leaders, in opposition to proposed LNG developments that the elected leadership supported.
The chiefs' council of the Lax Kw'alaams put out a letter that said, they “[do] not sanction inviting professional protesters from non-governmental organizations, and non Lax Kw'alaams First Nations members into their traditional lands in breach of ancient tribal protocols. [...] The unauthorized action by this renegade group has created needless confusion, damages tribal unity, and is insulting to tribal members.”
In the context of best practices for indigenous engagement, I think there are many Canadians, and maybe even elected people, who question whether or not this is happening and is actually a thing. However, we've heard about it repeatedly from indigenous leaders.
Do you have any suggestions on how a government could effectively go about sorting out the various leadership structures and figure out who's actually speaking on the will of the communities?
Also, do you have any views on how it impacts first nations communities when governments impose policies and laws that were explicitly requested by foreign-funded activists, for example, the oil shipping tanker ban, Bill , against the preferences of the locally impacted communities?
Okay, that's two questions.
I don't think government can do anything in terms of elected versus hereditary. Every community is going to have to figure that out for itself, because every community has evolved to a certain extent in terms of their leadership. Some have gone entirely towards elected leadership. Some have stayed with their hereditary. Some have actually created some sort of parallel co-operative process for that.
Even aboriginal people don't understand the difference between elected leadership versus hereditary. I've been to communities where members were questioning me on what I was doing. They didn't even understand the fundamentals of the Indian Act. They didn't understand that band councils just did not have authority to spend money that came from Ottawa. This speaks to the ignorance and apathy that band members have.
In amongst this confusion there's always an opposition group that will not support council no matter what. It doesn't matter what you do. You could have signed the best agreement in the world, they are still going to oppose it. I will give you an example. In the last LNG vote I had in my community, after very many votes our last LNG agreement came in at 92%, the highest rate we ever had....
By the way, if you want to see how out of control this can get, I suggest you find a court case that came out six or seven years ago called Wilson v. Switlo. That was my band. It tore our community apart. When you read the evidence in that you will not believe some of the things that happened and some of the things that were stated in my community. One of them was a letter saying that this person from the United States was actually mandated to bring 200 Gurkha soldiers into my little village to keep the peace. This is what we were trying to deal with. We can see this spreading across B.C. if not Canada because these foreign influence people come, they find the division point and they build on that. They have no interest in the community or the members themselves. I don't think government really has a part to play in it.
By the way, before I get to your second part, in terms of capital, I think there's a way for the federal and provincial governments to get involved with capital, not directly with money but actually think about an accommodation of the rights and title and say we can accommodate your capital needs through a loan guarantee as long as we know that the risk is so low that neither party is going to lose out. The business plan is there. In my accommodation to the first nations people as a fiduciary as well as the Crown, I'll give up a loan guarantee. That can solve a lot of problems with investors who are worried about investing with first nations.
I forget the second part of your question.