Consultation in Alberta

Alberta’s First Nations Consultation Guidelines on Land Management and Resource Development

Source: Graham Statt, A/Executive Director, International, Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Relations (September 2007)  

Alberta Context

  • Alberta in the strongest growth ever
  • 230,000 + active dispositions for resource development
  • 17,000 - 20,000 dispositions/year
  • 100 million acres of Crown land
  • 47 First Nations in 3 treaty areas

Recognized Rights

Federal law and provincial policy recognize First Nations’ rights on unoccupied Crown lands.   

  • Section 35 of the Constitution Act recognizes Aboriginal and treaty rights.  The Supreme Court of Canada has reaffirmed those rights in a number of decisions.
  • In Alberta’s Aboriginal Policy Framework of 2000, the province proposed  action on Aboriginal well-being, self-reliance, and consultation regarding resource and economic development.
  • Strengthening Relationships: Alberta’s Aboriginal Policy Framework (2000) - Alberta remains committed to meeting its treaty obligations to First nations Albertans and also leads the country on the settlement of recognized Treaty land entitlement claims.

Alberta’s Duty to Consult

  • Crown has a duty to consult - Any development must consider impacts to Treaty rights and traditional land use. The Supreme Court of Canada made it clear that the duty to consult resides with the Crown.
  • Only procedural aspects may be delegated - That duty cannot be delegated.  However procedural aspects of consultation may be delegated to industry project proponents. Alberta delegates aspects of the process, such as notification and the actual consultation procedures.  Our government provides support to the proponent where needed.
  • Alberta’s role: support, guide, review proponent-led consultation
  • Crown has authority to judge consultation, approve/deny projects - We retain the authority to judge if a consultation is adequate, and to approve or deny a project.  Consultation is required to occur before decisions are made or access permits are granted to proponents.

Alberta’s Policy to Consult

Alberta policy recognizes our duty to consult, and a consultation is triggered whenever a project could have an adverse impact on First Nations’ rights or traditional land uses.  Our policy requires consultation before decisions are made.  We find this approach proactively addresses issues before they end up in the courts. Alberta’s policy also outlines our guiding principles, and clarifies Alberta’s responsibilities and those of First Nations and industry proponents. 

  • Recognizes duty, outlines principles
  • Potential for adverse impacts triggers consultation process
  • Consult before decisions are made
  • Two years, hundreds of meetings
  • Alberta’s First Nations Consultation Policy on Land Management and Resource Development May 16, 2005

Best practices

  • Site visits
  • Community meetings
  • Cultural awareness training
  • Pre-application consultation
  • Business, employment and training
  • Long-term relationship building
  • Community investment

Outcomes:  Alberta Policy & Guidelines

The guidelines are engaging First Nations in the resource development decision making process.  Industry is considering First Nation consultation earlier in the process and proactively discussing major projects with Alberta early in their planning phase.  The result is the opportunity for resolution of issues, more effective resource development, increasing certainty for all parties, meeting Alberta’s legal obligations while maintaining the honour of the Crown.  

  • Avoid and mitigate impacts to rights and traditional uses
  • Engagement in decision making earlier in process
  • Opportunity for resolution of issues
  • Effective resource development
  • Increase certainty for all parties
  • Manage legal risk  

First Nations Consultation Capacity Investment Program

  • Core funding program based on area’s resource activity
  • $6.6 million annually
  • Designated First Nations’ consultation office with hired staff
  • Regional Capacity Coordinators
  • Regional Consultation Tables

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