New website aims to inform N.W.T. residents about changes to environmental laws
Website encourages public input on environmental, resource legislation
Six northern non-governmental organizations have launched a website — responsiblelegislationnwt.ca — in response to what spokesperson Karen Hamre describes as an "unprecedented volume" of environmental legislation slated to become law during this summer's sitting of the N.W.T. Legislative Assembly.
The government of Northwest Territories is introducing or amending nine pieces of legislation related to the environment and industry.
"It's very difficult to comment on the amount of legislation that's coming all at once. The other thing is a bunch of this legislation is very related and so it's good to try look at them together," said Hamre.
"This is the last chance, really to comment," she said.
The website is meant to help the public understand and comment on the proposed legislation before it's voted into law.
The legislation is meant to replace federal legislation inherited through territorial devolution in 2014. Several proposed bills are touring N.W.T. communities in April and May as part of the public hearing process and 120 day review period.
The sweeping legislation will govern forests, industry, protected areas, environmental rights, financial securities and carbon pricing.
Not set in stone
Non-governmental organizations spent the last year submitting comments on the environmental and resource management bills and are eager to consolidate that information to encourage public participation.
The website asks the public to make recommendations and suggest specific wording or concepts to add, delete or change for seven of the bills.
"We want people ... to understand what the government is doing and have the ability to comment on that and to hold the government to task if they think something is going wrong," said Hamre.
It lists hearing dates and bill summaries, offers expert review and posts comments submitted to the committee by the organizations like Ecology North, MiningWatch Canada, Canadian Arctic Resources Committee, Alternatives North and the N.W.T. chapters of Council of Canadians and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.
We want people ... to understand what the government is doing.- Karen Hamre
The Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment can still amend the bills based on public and expert submissions. MLAs will vote on proposed changes and decide if the bill should proceed to third reading.
If a majority of MLAs vote to pass a bill, it becomes law with assent from the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories. The new acts can then be used to create regulations.
The Mineral Resources Act, for example, will give the territorial government the power to establish a future online map staking regime, create exploration zones and require engagement and benefit agreements with Indigenous governments.
The territorial government is holding public hearings on industry-related acts from May 6 to 10 in Inuvik, Norman Wells, Yellowknife, Behchoko and Fort Simpson.
The legislative assembly will resume sitting on May 23.