Province provides details on the natural gas consultation process with First Nations22 October 2013
FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government today released an overview of its consultation and engagement activities with the First Nations as it relates to recent natural gas exploration.
“There have been questions about the government's role in the consultation process,” said Energy and Mines Minister Craig Leonard. “We felt it was necessary to let the public know that not only has the Crown met its consultation requirements for the current seismic program, but has gone above and beyond to ensure that First Nations have full details about the current program.”
The duty to consult with First Nations is derived from Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, which recognized and affirmed Aboriginal and treaty rights in Canada that had been established under treaties between the Crown and the Aboriginal peoples. Aboriginal rights are customs, practices and traditions that are integral to the distinctive culture of an Aboriginal society. It includes the right to hunt, trap, fish, gather and follow Aboriginal customs, practices and traditions on ancestral lands.
The Government of New Brunswick Duty to Consult Policy was adopted in 2011 with input from the Assembly of First Nation Chiefs of New Brunswick and applies to government decisions that may adversely affect the Aboriginal use of Crown land and resources for traditional purposes. The policy ensures that the government fulfills its constitutional obligations by providing guidance to provincial regulators, industry proponents and the First Nations on whether Crown decisions such as regulatory approvals will negatively impact the Aboriginal use of Crown land and resources for traditional purposes and, thereby, infringe upon Aboriginal and treaty rights.
The consultation process also provides opportunities for First Nations to identify issues or concerns related to the proposed activity. The seismic program proposed by SWN Resources Canada, Inc. (SWN) in the Kent County area was determined by the Crown to have a negligible risk of adverse impact on Aboriginal land use or treaty rights. The Crown also recommended that SWN notify the adjacent First Nations communities about the seismic program, compile information on the traditional use of the proposed seismic route, and discuss related issues and concerns.
“As we have said all along, if oil and gas reserves are found through the exploration process, the government and proponents would have to enter into further consultations with First Nations to ensure that the environment was protected and that Aboriginal peoples benefited from oil and gas development, in addition to abiding by regulations such as the environmental assessment and permitting processes required by the province before any drilling or extraction was to take place,” said Leonard.
“As a government we understand how important the consultation process is and we have ensured that SWN Canada met their requirements and responsibilities from a technical perspective,” he said. “But we, as government, have also been consistently meeting with the Chiefs and Councils of New Brunswick First Nations and the Assembly of First Nations Chiefs of New Brunswick to discuss how we can ensure natural resource development provides significant economic opportunities to First Nations.”
In addition to fulfilling provincial consultation requirements, SWN has also facilitated workshops with First Nations in the current project area since the spring of 2012, in order to provide information to community members and elders on the seismic program and natural gas development. The company has also provided employment for 19 First Nations individuals, primarily through environmental and archaeological monitoring of the seismic program.
Leonard expressed confidence that the dialogue would continue between the provincial government, industry representatives, the First Nations and the public regarding the development of the oil and natural gas sector in New Brunswick.
2012-2013 CONSULTATION AND ENGAGEMENT ACTIVITIES
July 2012 - SWN Resources Canada (SWN) hosts Maliseet Elder Workshops at Tobique First Nation.
September 2012 - SWN Resources Canada (SWN) Mi'kmaq Elder Workshops at Elsipogtog First Nation.
May 2012 - SWN hosts community meetings at Elsipogtog First Nation.
June 2012 - SWN hosts community meetings at Indian Island First Nation.
August 2012 - Provincial government oil and gas presentation to tripartite committee representing federal and provincial governments, as well as the Assembly of First Nations Chiefs in New Brunswick (AFNCNB).
October 2012 - Chiefs Consultation Committee visit to Arkansas.
March 2013 - Provincial government issued Crown determination on duty to consult with First Nations.
April 2013 - SWN provided details of seismic program to First Nations in project area.
April 2013 - SWN invited First Nations to demonstration of seismic equipment and process.
June 2013 - SWN met with First Nations to discuss traditional knowledge and environmental monitoring.
July 2013 - Elder Information Session (23 elders representing First Nations in the AFNCNB).
August 2013 - SWN invites the Chief and Council of Elsipogtog First Nation visit to Arkansas.
September 2013 - Presentation to New Brunswick First Nations by Indian Resource Council (representing First Nations involved in oil and gas production).
SWN meetings with Chief and/or Council First Nations in project area - ongoing.
Provincial government meetings with Chief and/or Council First Nations in project area - ongoing.
Provincial government meetings with AFNCNB - ongoing.