April 28, 2016.
Two days after Treaty 8 signed a protocol agreement with the province and Treaty 8 Deputy Grand Chief Isaac Laboucan-Avirom said, “Actions will speak louder than words,” the government has announced it will be withdrawing Bill 22.
Indigenous Relations Minister Richard Feehan said Wednesday the government would withdraw the bill, which created a levy to fund, in part, the province's Aboriginal Consultation Office. The bill passed all three readings under the Conservative government but had not been enacted.
But as far as Eriel Deranger, spokesperson for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, is concerned, the government is still about words. She notes that this is the third time – but this time publicly – that the NDP government has said that it would repeal Bill 22.
“It’s still words. We need to see action,” she said.
Feehan said the bill will be withdrawn next week in the legislature.
The bill, introduced by the Conservative government, directs industry to pay fees into a pot to be collected by the government and distributed through the ACO, which is part of the Indigenous relations ministry. The money would also help operate the ACO.
First Nations were opposed to Bill 22 as they had not been consulted on it.
Deranger is wary about Feehan’s announcement also because he has not said how that lost revenue will be replaced. Presently, First Nations must negotiate consultation fees from the company whose development could impact the First Nation.
Deranger also says that withdrawing Bill 22 will have little to no impact on court action ACFN began in 2014 against the government’s policy on land and natural resource management. At issue, she says, was the ACO’s recommendation to the joint review panel that TransCanada did not have to consult with ACFN on the development of the Grand Rapids pipeline. ACO claimed, without consulting with ACFN, that the First Nation would not be impacted because the pipeline project was on the boundaries of ACFN traditional territory.
On Tuesday, Fort McKay First Nation announced it had filed a law suit against the province following the decision by the ACO to advance Prosper Petroleum Ltd.’s application on to Alberta Energy Regulator for approval. Prosper wants to develop an oil sands lease on the border of Moose Lake Reserve. In a news release, Chief Jim Boucher said passing approval on to AER left no recourse for Fort McKay First Nation as AER does not have the jurisdiction to consider Aboriginal or treaty rights or the capacity to delay approval of the Prosper project until a plan is in place to protect the environment and Fort McKay’s rights.
Feehan said the government will consult with First Nations to redesign Aboriginal consultation.
Once more, Deranger says she is looking for more than talk.
“We do have a lot of rhetoric that’s been bolstered in the public by national and provincial leaders on renewed relationships with First Nations … but we haven’t really seen a lot come to fruition,” she said.