Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Text Size

New legislation makes it easy for feds to ignore public and Aboriginal input on resource development



MiningWatch blog

Last week the Minister of the Environment, Leona Aglukkaq bent to the desire of B.C. to go it alone on the environmental assessment of another major resource development project -- in this case, the proposed Ruddock Creek Lead and Zinc Mine.

On May 30, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency posted a request for public comment on whether there should be a federal review of the project and whether the federal government should accept B.C.'s request to substitute the B.C. process for the federal process.

Responses to the consultation process were overwhelmingly in favour of a federal assessment and against the substitution. I obtained copies of the submissions (they are public documents) and reviewed the 30 comments that were filed (in addition to ours). Only three supported substitution. We and ten others explicitly cited a lack of confidence in the B.C. assessment process as an important reason for the feds to stay involved. The example of B.C.'s acceptance of the now twice rejected Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine was used as an example of why people don’t put much confidence in the B.C. process. The First Nations' submissions also noted the importance of having the federal government at the table as they have primary responsibility for relationships with Aboriginal peoples.

A range of concerns about the project were expressed. The First Nations noted their unextinguished Aboriginal Rights and Title to the area. Potential impacts on the Adams River Watershed and the Pacific salmon populations that inhabit it were the most common concerns but impacts on the South Mountain Caribou and other wildlife were repeated in several submissions.

The submissions appear to have had no effect. This is not that suprising give the Harper government's track record but it's also hard to imagine how comments opposing substitution could have an impact given Conservatives re-wrote the Environmental Assessment Act in 2012. The changes to the Act and an agreement with B.C. allow, and practically require, the feds to step away from their responsibilities for environmental assessment if asked to do so by a province.

While most of our environmental legislation gives considerable discretionary authority to the Minister, CEAA 2012 is strict on substitution: it includes an "obligation" that the Minister must accept a substitution request if a province meets certain general criteria. (Sec 32) A case can be made for failure to satisfy the criteria but the current federal government is more than happy to concede. This is the eighth request from B.C. to be granted, and none have been turned down. (These include one other metal mine, four coal mines and two Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminals.)

It is important to remember that the Ruddock Creek project is on unceded Secwepemc territory, and is subject to Aboriginal Title. Given the recent decision from the Supreme Court of Canada in the Tsilhqot'in case, the province, federal government and proponent (Imperial Metals) ought to reconsider the approach taken with this substitution request and reflect on whether ignoring the input of First Nations is a wise move. According to the Supreme Court:

[92] Once title is established, it may be necessary for the Crown to reassess prior conduct in light of the new reality in order to faithfully discharge its fiduciary duty to the title-holding group going forward. For example, if the Crown begins a project without consent prior to Aboriginal title being established, it may be required to cancel the project upon establishment of the title if continuation of the project would be unjustifiably infringing….

[97] Governments and individuals proposing to use or exploit land, whether before or after a declaration of Aboriginal title, can avoid a charge of infringement or failure to adequately consult by obtaining the consent of the interested Aboriginal group.

MiningWatch Canada is a pan-Canadian initiative supported by environmental, social justice, Aboriginal and labour organizations from across the country. It addresses the urgent need for a co-ordinated public interest response to the threats to public health, water and air quality, fish and wildlife habitat and community interests posed by irresponsible mineral policies and practices in Canada and around the world.

Whatever Trevor

Dis is Trevor.

Education & Training

Blast from the past: FP archive

When is Consultation, Consultation?

Ovide Mercredi

National Chief – AFN

During a Treaty Roundtable meeting of the Alberta Chiefs, I took note of a federal government document outlining their strategy to define and ultimately impose their own form of self-government. Read more...

Letting go of residential schools

by Gilbert Oskaboose, Nov 1993 First Perspective

There is a lot of "unfinished business" in Indian Country. Garbage that we as a people have never really dealt with. Chief among them is the whole issue of those infamous residential schools and their impact on people. Read more...


obidiah picture

ANALYSIS - Bill Gallagher

gallagher picture

Under the Northern Sky by Xavier Kataquapit

Under the Northern Sky by Xavier Kataquapit


First Nations Cultural Interpreter PM – 02 Riding Mountain National Park Seasonal Indeterminate

(May to October) From $54,543 to $58,764

Closing Sept. 19, 2014

Read More

Regional Media Officer– Temp (Until Nov 2015) –F/T Position

Office of the Leader of the Official Opposition / NDP Research Office

Location:131 Queen Street, Suite 10-02, Ottawa, ON


Communicate regularly with regional media outlets (community newspapers, radio stations, student media, ethnic media, etc.) to propose ideas for interviews and opinion content Read more...

Canadian Chamber of Commerce Aboriginal Workforce Report

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce released a report that highlights initiatives to improve the workforce participation of Aboriginal peoples. 

Opportunity Found: Improving the Participation of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada’s Workforce (December 2013)  

click image to download report

Tue Sep 23 @ 3:00PM - 04:15PM
FNHMA National Conference 2014
Sun Oct 05 @ 9:00AM - 05:00PM
INIHKD & Manitoba NEAHR Conference 2014


September 2014
31 1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 1 2 3 4

Current Video

RIP Percy Tuesday


Thanks to Althea Guiboche for allowing The First Perspective to share her video taken at the Manitowapow book launch at McNally Robinson. 

Percey sings Freddy Fender's "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" and people join in to harmonize. 

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO): The Washington Redskins