More Stalling by Federal Government on Indigenous Jurisdiction Regulation under the Impact Assessment Act

Earlier this year, CELA issued a press release on behalf of our client Kebaowek First Nation (KFN) to urge the federal Cabinet to immediately pass a key regulation under Canada’s Impact Assessment Act that would recognize and entrench Indigenous jurisdiction when information-gathering and decision-making occurs under the Act in relation to environmentally significant projects (i.e. pipelines).

Incredibly, Canada has still not committed to a clear timeline for this overdue Indigenous jurisdiction regulation, which negatively impacts not only KFN’s involvement on the ongoing Gazoduq pipeline impact assessment, but also a host of other impact assessments that KFN is involved in. On behalf of KFN, CELA has filed multiple Access to Information requests with the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (IAAC) to obtain relevant records and to better understand the delays, but we have been told the requests may take another year (or more) to fulfil. In our view, this is an exceptional and unreasonable amount of time, and this delay tactic is not responsive to KFN, which has been raising this issue since the IAA was enacted in 2019.

So where does this leave KFN? Rather than developing the regulation with full Indigenous engagement, the IAAC is now consulting on its Indigenous Knowledge Policy Framework, which is intended to “guide” the implementation of Indigenous knowledge in the Impact Assessment Act. Even if this framework is completed, it falls far short of entrenching the role, responsibility and authority that the legally binding Indigenous jurisdiction regulation would establish for all Indigenous communities across Canada that are interested in, or potentially affected by, major projects undergoing federal assessment.