May 4, 2016.
Indigenous Relations Minister Richard Feehan has followed through on his promise to do away with a bill that led to First Nations leaders and members protesting on the steps of the Legislature in 2013.
On Tuesday, Feehan introduced legislation to repeal Bill 22, the Aboriginal Consultation Levy Act.
“Many First Nations felt they were not adequately consulted on the development or passing of the bill and were vocal in the opposition toward it. One of our government’s platform commitments, the repeal of Bill 22, is an important step in renewing the consultation process to make sure it responds to the evolving needs of First Nations, industry, and other stakeholders.,” said Feehan in the Legislature.
Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Craig Mackinaw is pleased that the bill, which was passed by the Conservative government but never enacted, has been repealed.
“I think it’s a positive move. It will reset everything and now the government can work with the bands … down the road,” said Mackinaw.
Eriel Deranger, spokesperson for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, is wary about the government’s move.
“They haven’t indicated what they will be replacing this with…. It still sounds pretty vague,” she said.
In introducing Bill 12, which repeals Bill 22, Feehan said, “We have heard loud and clear from First Nations that the current consultation policy does not meet the needs of their communities or respect First Nations constitutionally protected treaty rights, which is why my ministry is reaching out to First Nations in conducting a comprehensive review with the aim of reviewing Alberta’s consultation policy.”
“From talking to Mr. Feehan, they will probably come back with a different version, more with our input. We should expect to see that in the near future,” said Mackinaw.
Bill 22 only set the consultation levy, which required industry to pay fees into a pot. That money was to be used to fund First Nations consultation as well as the Aboriginal Consultation Office and was to be distributed by the ACO based on a matrix established by the government. The ACO is part of the Indigenous relations ministry.
“There’s concerns around how these consultation offices are running with respect to applications,” said Deranger. She noted that a court case the ACFN has pending deals with the recommendation ACO gave 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.
Mackinaw would like to see more than the consultation levy on the table for discussion.
“Like I’ve been talking about, revenue sharing, that’s one thing I would still like to see be brought to the table and I’m hoping eventually it will be,” he said. “I would also like more opportunities for the bands so they can get more involved, even be part of the projects, too. That would be good… partners or even buying into projects as shareholders or investors, that would be good.”
Feehan says a portion of the $750,000 set aside in the last provincial budget to enhance the consultation process with First Nations and Métis, will be used.