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Enhanced First Nations engagement measures announced at Prince Rupert event
First Nations participation is essential in building Canada for a better tomorrow.
That was the message of Greg Rickford, Canada's Minister of Natural Resources and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario, who along with B.C. Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation John Rustad were in Prince Rupert on Tuesday to announce new measures put in place to ensure active participation from First Nations in the development of Canada's energy resources.
“We must take steps to ensure that First Nations are partners in everything we do — from prevention and preparedness through to emergency response,” said Minister Rickford.
“This will not only help to ensure that communities receive sustainable economic benefits, build confidence in local communities about how these systems operate.”
“Here in B.C. we're blessed with an abundance of natural resources that hold huge economic potential. The Province wants to ensure that all British Columbians are able to benefit from this potential, particularly First Nations,” said Minister Rustad.
According to Rickford, the government is taking steps to enhance marine and pipeline safety, resulting in robust prevention, better preparedness and response, and improved liability and compensation in the event of an incident. This includes increases in surveillance, inspections and safety audits for both marine shipping and pipelines, modernizing navigation systems and the entire system of spill response, as well as new enforcement mechanisms.
“We are ensuring that it is the polluter — not Canadians — who pay if an incident does occur. This means companies will be accountable — and taxpayers protected — from bearing any potential costs,” Rickford said.
The government also hopes to enhance First Nations participation through the creation of the Major Projects Management Office West (MPMP-West), and a tripartite forum initiative. Both measures come from Douglas Eyford's final report, the man the Prime Minister appointed as a Special Federal Representative for West Coast Energy Infrastructure a year ago.
By providing an on-the-ground presence, MPMO-West will coordinate government engagement with First Nations and industry by facilitating ongoing dialogue to better understand perspectives on issues such as employment, business opportunities and environmental stewardship and safety.
The tripartite forum allow the federal and provincial governments and B.C. First Nations leaders to “share information, identify common interests and align efforts on issues” and will be supported by MPMO-West through the coordination of activities.
Lax Kw'alaams Mayor Garry Reece and Ryan Leighton of the Metlakatla First Nation joined the ministers for the announcement. Speaking on behalf of both nations, Reece said the newly implemented measures recognize the importance of working with First Nations. Reece took the opportunity to reiterate the people of Lax Kw'alaams are willing to support projects in their territory that protect the environment and marine resources, but they are firm in their opposition of oil infrastructure.
“My community made that clear; they've protested against oil. We don't support that right now. But LNG, we want to make sure we're going to have the environmental protection of all our air and sea resources,” he said.
“I don't think the door is going to be open [for oil projects].”