This presentation took place on February 16th, 2016 at the Northern Planning Conference in Whitehorse
Environmental assessment (EA) has long been the primary planning and decision-making tool for major resource development in Canada, with greater influence over our shared landscapes than ad hoc strategic EAs and land and marine use planning. EAs are typically led by industry proponents who are required to follow a federal or provincial process (or both), subject to a Minister’s final decision. This convention is being challenged as Indigenous governments are increasingly leading their own EAs either independently, or collaboratively with industry or government.
This innovation does not appear to be emerging from the northern regions, where EAs have tended to be more robustly scoped to include Indigenous values and perspectives than in other regions of Canada. Instead, Indigenous-led EAs are appearing in British Columbia (BC) as communities find strength in the 2014 Tsilhqot’in Supreme Court of Canada decision regarding Aboriginal title. Importantly, this decision brought two ideas into high relief for planning and EA practice: (1) Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) for development proposed in Indigenous lands and (2) the equal importance of Indigenous perspectives in decision-making, including those emerging out of Indigenous legal and planning traditions.
This presentation explores examples from Indigenous-led EAs in BC, offering potential insights for communities interested in finding complimentary approaches to the legislated, co-managed EA processes common to northern Canada.