Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut September 01, 2017 - 4:00 pm

Consultation lacking on new oil, gas exploration rules: WWF, Inuit orgs

“Very few NGOs, Indigenous organizations or other stakeholders, if any, are aware of the process"

STEVE DUCHARME
This Natural Resources Canada map shows Canada's offshore and frontier petroleum administrative areas including the largest geographical area, in the Arctic, governed by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and National Energy Board. Now that INAC has been split into two departments, it's likely this area would fall under the new purview of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, in partnership with the NEB.
This Natural Resources Canada map shows Canada's offshore and frontier petroleum administrative areas including the largest geographical area, in the Arctic, governed by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and National Energy Board. Now that INAC has been split into two departments, it's likely this area would fall under the new purview of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, in partnership with the NEB.

World Wildlife Fund-Canada is calling for a “suspension and reset” of public consultations on a proposed policy updating some of Canada’s oil and gas exploration regulations, amidst confusion over whether Inuit organizations—among others—were ever properly consulted by the federal government.

The Frontier and Offshore Regulatory Renewal Initiative, or “FORRI,” was proposed in 2016 and aims to amalgamate and update existing regulations under the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act.

“Modernizing the regulations governing frontier and offshore oil and gas activities will contribute to maintaining Canada’s high standards for safety, environmental protection and resource management,” reads a Natural Resources Canada description for FORRI on its website.

The deadline for public comments is scheduled for Sept. 20, but the WWF claims that Ottawa failed in its due diligence to consult non-government organizations and Indigenous groups in areas affected by oil exploration.

“To our knowledge, there has been very little participation outside of the oil and gas industry,” said WWF-Canada President, David Miller, in a letter to the minister of natural resources, Jim Carr, dated Aug. 24.

“Very few NGOs, Indigenous organizations or other stakeholders, if any, are aware of the process, let alone participated in the consultations,” Miller said, adding that WWF-Canada only became aware of FORRI accidently through an unrelated meeting with NRCan officials.

Both the national Inuit organization, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, as well as the Qikiqtani Inuit Association confirmed they did not help to draft FORRI.

“QIA was not involved in the Frontier and Offshore Regulatory Initiative (FORRI). We believe in order to work collaboratively with Inuit there needs to be greater efforts to include opportunities for meaningful participation from our communities,” QIA said in an email statement to Nunatsiaq News, Aug. 31.

“ITK has not been engaged by [Natural Resources Canada] to contribute to the FORRI consultation process,” an ITK spokesperson said, Aug. 31.

NTI did not respond to requests from Nunatsiaq News for comment on FORRI.

Ottawa’s actions seem to contradict the prime minister’s boasts this week about respecting and renewing relationships with Canada’s first peoples and tossing out “colonial structures” when he announced he was splitting the Indigenous Affairs department into two in order to better meet Indigenous Canadians’ needs.

“INAC was also not designed or conceived of to support and partner with Inuit and Métis peoples, based on their unique histories, circumstances and aspirations,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, Aug. 28.

“To put it plainly, the level of the ambition of this government cannot be achieved through existing colonial structures.”

Trudeau placed a five-year moratorium on new oil and gas exploration in the Arctic in December 2016 but that does not impact pre-existing oil and gas exploration licenses of which there are many in the Arctic.

The Nunavut Impact Review Board is currently undertaking a Strategic Environmental Assessment of oil and gas exploration in the Arctic to inform any future policy in this area.

In his letter to NRCan, Miller challenged the “industry friendly” regulations proposed in FORRI, which he says are “vague” and contain “undefined” terms that leave too much room for interpretation from regulatory agencies such as the National Energy Board and the Atlantic offshore boards.

“The new regulations include no minimum standards of safety to assist the boards with interpreting the new rules, no requirements to suit the best available technologies or adopt best environmental practices,” he said.

Some of legal jargon cited by the WWF in FORRI include “as soon as circumstances permit,” or “minimalizing spill duration and environmental effects,” and to reduce risk “as low as reasonably practicable” when dealing with environmental emergencies.

“There is no justification for rushing through a regulatory renewal process that could have serious consequences for safety and environmental protection,” Miller said.

In its own comments to the FORRI, dated Aug. 30 2016, the Government of Nunavut’s Department of Economic Development and Transportation said it “welcomed” the initiative, but also voiced concerns over the vagueness of language within the document.

The definition for “Good Oil Field Practices,” the GN said of the new initiative, “is broad and too open ended,” adding that other sections set standards that are too vague to measure the adverse affects of a project on the surrounding environment.

No comments were tendered during any phase of the consultation by either Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. or any of Nunavut’s regional Inuit organizations, according to the list of recorded comments compiled on Natural Resources Canada’s FORRI webpage.

WWF-Canada confirmed to Nunatsiaq News Aug. 31 that the Office of the Minister of Natural Resources has not yet responded to its open letter which was also forwarded to four other federal ministers and the prime minister.

We contacted Natural Resources Canada for comment on this story but they did not respond by our press time.

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