In 2016, the Ministry of Indigenous Relations began engaging First Nations, Metis Settlements, industry and municipal governments about proposed changes to the province’s policies that guide how First Nations and Metis Settlements will be consulted on any development of land and natural resources that will impact treaty rights or Indigenous peoples’ traditional use of the land. The current policies were implemented in 2013 and can apply to a municipality when it seeks to carry out a project that requires approval by the Government of Alberta on behalf of the Crown. Common examples can include the development of a water line, wastewater treatment plant, or a road through Crown land as those projects can often impact traditional Indigenous practices of hunting and fishing or culturally significant sites such as burial grounds.
The policies and guidelines outline the process and minimum requirements for consulting Indigenous communities that could be affected by a proposed development. The province’s goal in revising the policies is to address concerns from stakeholders and create greater alignment with the principles of reconciliation and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In addition, the province is considering implementing a fee system to fund the capacity of First Nations and Metis Settlements to meaningfully participate in consultation.
This summer, AUMA submitted a letter to the Ministry of Indigenous Relations indicating support for the majority of policy proposals and asked that the Ministry:
- Host workshops to increase municipal awareness and understanding of the consultation policies and how they apply to municipal projects;
- Develop a resource that guides municipal governments on the process for each prescribed level of consultation of First Nations or Metis Settlements;
- Provide education on the Crown’s legal duty to consult and how that differs from the engagement processes set out in the Municipal Government Act (MGA);
- Have adequate staff resources to ensure municipalities have timely access to consultation advice and services;
- Exempt municipalities from the proposed flat fee for consultation capacity or fund both municipalities and First Nations and Metis Settlements to participate in consultation; and
- Create an opportunity for AUMA to have input on how the Government of Alberta’s proposed Indigenous cultural awareness programs could be offered to municipalities.
To-date, few municipalities have been impacted by the policies as the vast majority of the 14,000-18,000 annual applications are generated by the oil and gas and forestry industries. The Ministry of Indigenous Relations is currently developing a draft policy that will be released for public consultation in the coming months. AUMA will continue to monitor this issue and keep members up-to-date on new developments.
Note: The First Nations and Metis Settlements consultation policies should not be confused with the 2017 updates to the MGA regarding notifications and collaboration with Indigenous communities. The First Nations and Metis Settlements consultation policies are uniquely specific to the Crown’s duty to consult Indigenous peoples on proposed developments of land and natural resources, whereas the MGA changes focus on communication and relationship building between municipalities and Indigenous communities.
If you have questions about the policy renewal process or want to be directly notified about future engagements, please the Ministry of Indigenous Relations at Leah.Sheffield@gov.ab.ca or firstname.lastname@example.org. For questions about AUMA’s involvement and position, please contact AUMA’s Advocacy department.