A joint agreement which will ensure more Indigenous input into the monitoring of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project and existing pipeline was announced on Wednesday. The accord three parties agreeing to the deal are the Canada Energy Regulator, Trans Mountain Corporation (TMC) and the Indigenous Advisory and Monitoring Committee for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project and Existing Pipeline (IAMC-TMX).
Last September, Natural Resources Canada brought together senior representatives from the three groups to begin work on improvements to Indigenous monitoring of the TMX project. Earlier this year, leaders from the three organizations endorsed the initiative.
IAMC-TMX Indigenous Co-Chair Councillor Michelle Wilsdon of Enoch Cree Nation said “We’re working hard to put Indigenous boots on the ground, partnering with federal regulators to protect Indigenous interests.” Councillor Wilsdon is also the Chair of the Indigenous Caucus, which is comprised of the Indigenous members of the IAMC-TMX.
“Through this new initiative, we are seeking to better ensure the knowledge, values, and perspectives of Indigenous communities are respected and incorporated into how the Project is built, with the overall aim of advancing Indigenous interests in the oversight of the Project”, added Wilsdon.
The IAMC-TMX brings together 13 Indigenous representatives and six senior federal officials to address shared interests such as Indigenous monitoring, Indigenous inclusion in emergency management, and mitigating the impacts of temporary labour camps.
Participating Indigenous members are selected on a regional basis by the 129 impacted Indigenous communities and engage “without prejudice” to their views on the project. The Canada Energy Regulator says the committee is not a rights-holding body and is not a forum for consultation.
The goal of the coalition is to ensure TMX is built safely, in full regulatory compliance, with Indigenous participation in oversight, and with minimal harm to the environment and Indigenous interests.
According to a press release from the CER, Indigenous interests are “reflected in the oversight of the Project and are occurring in multiple ways.” The IAMC-TMX Indigenous Monitoring Program supports Indigenous Monitors to participate in verifying compliance through in-field inspections with the CER, DFO and Parks Canada.
“This agreement represents how we are fundamentally transforming the way the CER works to advance reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples,” says Canada Energy Regulator Acting-CEO Sandy Lapointe.
“Collaborating with the IAMC-TMX and Trans Mountain is helping us develop best practices in Indigenous monitoring and will inform how we approach and expand Indigenous inclusion in oversight for all future projects.”
The IAMC-TMX Indigenous Monitoring Program supports Indigenous Monitors to participate in verifying compliance through in-field inspections with the CER, DFO and Parks Canada. In TMC’s Indigenous Monitoring Program, Indigenous Monitors work directly with the company to ensure traditional knowledge is incorporated directly and pragmatically into construction oversight practices and decision-making.
“New ways of working together can generate better outcomes for Indigenous communities and industry,” says Kimberly Lavoie, interim NRCan Member and Government Co-Chair for IAMC-TMX.
Lavoie adds “The relationships that we’ve developed will help all parties manage issues that might arise during construction.”
The agreement will allow for meaningful opportunities for Indigenous communities to participate in monitoring and mitigation oversight of the construction of TMX as well as the operations of the existing pipeline. There will also be opportunities for communities to work together, should they choose, in areas of shared territory.
There will also be increased transparency of construction activities and monitoring reports and extra capacity for Indigenous communities and monitors to effectively protect communities’ interests.
Chief Harvey McLeod, Chief of the Upper Nicola Band and an IAMC-TMX member said while all parties have not reached consensus on every issue “we have made some important progress toward improving the transparency and capacity of both the IAMC-TMX’s and TMC’s monitoring programs.”
Trans Mountain says it sees the alliance as a means to work proactively with the Indigenous Caucus of the IAMC-TMX and regulators to find solutions that everyone can support.
“This collaboration allows for the best from all parties to be incorporated into shared objectives” says Ian Anderson, Trans Mountain President and CEO.
Currently, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant CER, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), Parks Canada and IAMC-TMX have to find innovative ways to provide regulatory oversight.
“In-field inspections are still being performed, and work is ongoing to ensure Indigenous monitors and federal staff can conduct inspections safely, consistent with public and occupational health requirements,” says Lapointe.
Next steps for the parties are to implement the short-term deliverables and explore other ways to work together to manage issues during construction. The parties are also interested in sharing best practices and lessons learned with other governments and industries that may benefit from similar approaches.