Canada Energy Regulator recruiting Indigenous people to join new advisory committee

The Canada Energy Regulator is looking for Indigenous people to join a new advisory committee that is expected to play "a key advisory role" to the regulator's board of directors, according to a recruitment document posted online.

New committee expected to play ‘a key advisory role’ to the board of directors

Pipe for the Trans Mountain Pipeline is unloaded in Edson, Alta., on June 18, 2019. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

The Canada Energy Regulator is looking for Indigenous people to join a new advisory committee that is expected to play "a key advisory role" to the regulator's board of directors, according to a recruitment document posted online.

Up to seven people are expected to join the new Indigenous Advisory Committee. Three of those people will be appointed to the committee by the Assembly of First Nations, Métis National Council and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

The Canada Energy Regulator is responsible for reviewing energy project proposals that fall within its jurisdiction and makes recommendations to cabinet around approvals and issues conditions for approval. It's also responsible for oversight of existing pipelines and transmission lines.  

Cassie Doyle, chairperson of the regulator's new board of directors, said among the big changes with the new regulator is a commitment to advancing reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. 

"Obviously the courts in the past have ruled that the relationship was not robust enough and the consultations had to be redone, et cetera," said Doyle. 

For example, the regulator's first approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion was quashed by the Federal Court of Appeal based on inadequate consultation with First Nations. 

Doyle said the new committee will "be able to provide us with wise counsel and advice around how we're doing in terms of changing the relationship and essentially, how are we going to be a regulator that is promoting reconciliation." 

New regulator promised 'greater Indigenous participation'

The Canada Energy Regulator replaced the National Energy Board after the federal government passed Bill C-69 last year. 

In overhauling the regulator, the federal government committed to "greater Indigenous participation." This included the creation of the Indigenous Advisory Committee and a requirement that at least one Indigenous person be included on the board of directors. 

Currently that board seat is held by Melanie Debassige from M'Chigeeng First Nation in Ontario, who is also the executive director at the Ontario First Nations Technical Services.

Cheam First Nation Chief Ernie Crey, left, stands with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during an opening prayer before a discussion with the Indigenous Advisory and Monitoring Committee, on the Cheam First Nation near Chilliwack, B.C., on Tuesday, June 5, 2018. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

In recent years a couple of Indigenous advisory and monitoring committees have been formed in relation to specific projects like the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and Enbridge Line 3. 

 Chief Harvey McLeod, from the Upper Nicola Band in B.C., has sat on the committee for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion since its inception and has seen it touted as an example of what a new relationship can look like between the regulator, Indigenous Peoples, government and proponents. 

He had bigger visions for what the Trans Mountain advisory and monitoring committee could be and said compromises were made in finalizing the terms of reference. 

"So in my view, we've taken our expectation from high level and we've reduced it considerably just to form the table so we could start talking, because the longer we don't talk, the further the project gets without any involvement from us."

"Did it do anything for us? I'd like to say yes, it has," said McLeod.  

Upper Nicola Chief Harvey McLeod sees potential in the new Indigenous Advisory Committee being put together. (Upper Nicola Band)

New committee to meet quarterly

Doyle said learning about people's experiences in the advisory and monitoring committees and getting feedback on whether things are heading in the right direction will be one of the starting points between the board and the new committee. 

"We are just in the early stages on this, I believe," she said. 

The new committee will meet quarterly, at minimum. Doyle said she imagines there will be situations that arise periodically where the board will want to lean on the committee for advice.

For example, she said the COVID-19 pandemic has raised concerns about work camps and potential impacts on nearby Indigenous communities. 

"When we have the Indigenous Advisory Committee, as the chair, I'd say let's get that committee together and let's talk this through because we have received these concerns and we want to respond to them."

McLeod said the promise of the new committee is to give board members insight into life in communities like his but building and maintaining trust will be key.

"I think it's a start because we're looking at a new relationship between governments from First Nations and provincial and federal — that's what we're looking for."

Applications for the new committee are open until the end of May. 

Doyle said the hope is to have the new committee finalized sometime this summer.