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The AUC is committed to ensuring that Indigenous groups whose constitutionally protected rights may be directly and adversely affected by development have the opportunity to have their concerns heard, considered, understood and accommodated (if required).
The proponents are required to consult with Indigenous groups that are potentially or adversely affected by the project as part of its participant involvement program. However an Indigenous group can also contact the proponent directly, in advance of the AUC application, if it is interested in learning more about the project or to discuss its concerns.
Once there is an AUC application, the Indigenous group can seek to participate in the proceeding by submitting a statement of intent to participate (SIP). The AUC will review the SIP and issue a decision about standing. If the Indigenous group is granted standing then they can participate in the proceeding by submitting information requests, providing evidence and participating in the hearing.
The AUC has the authority to consider and address potential adverse impacts to Aboriginal and treaty rights (as set out in Section 35 of the Constitution Act) when deciding whether approval of an electric facility or gas utility project is in the public interest.
The AUC has been implementing the principles and processes introduced in Bulletin 2019-20, the draft framework for Indigenous consultation and AUC Rule 007, but there is still opportunity for improvement through education and outreach. So far, the AUC has been able to review applications faster and more consistently to determine if notification should be provided to Indigenous groups.
The AUC developed a targeted statement of intent to participate process for Indigenous groups based on early feedback. The goal was to help Indigenous groups understand the information the AUC needs and to reduce information requests.
The AUC’s notification process now includes sending letters via email and traditional mail directly to the community consultation contact informing them of the application, the process to participate, the deadline for submissions and a copy of the SIP for Indigenous groups form. Currently, the AUC is exploring if there is interest in an outreach/training program.
No, the applicant does not have to specify which consultation category applies to its project. The categories are intended to help applicants understand the AUC’s expectations for Indigenous consultation.
The applicant must indicate if Indigenous groups were included the participation involvement program. If so, the applicant must include a summary of the consultation undertaken including a description of the unresolved objections that it is aware of, and its responses and follow-up to these objections. If no steps were undertaken to identify and consult with Indigenous groups, the applicant must provide an explanation.
Applicants may request pre-application feedback from AUC staff on the participant involvement for Indigenous groups.
Transmission projects adjacent to Crown land or separated from Crown land by a road are reviewed on a case by case basis (Category C).
Rule 007 defines “Indigenous group” as “First Nation, Metis Settlement or other group that has an Aboriginal or treaty right (as provided in Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982). This definition of Indigenous groups is inclusive of the Metis Nation of Alberta.
If the project intends to connect to the Alberta Interconnected Electric System, then an AUC approval is required. Power plants on federal lands (i.e. military lands, national parks, First Nations reserves) that connect to the electric system are all regulated and approved by the AUC.
The AUC does not require proponents to contact the Aboriginal Consultation Office (ACO) regarding Indigenous consultation as the ACO does not have a role in the AUC’s processes. That being said, the AUC strives for alignment with the Alberta government’s consultation process when there are related approvals (i.e. Public Lands Act, Water Act, Historical Resources Act, etc.). The AUC requires applicants to provide the direction on Indigenous consultation that they have received from the government of Alberta, through the ACO or otherwise. The purpose of this to avoid duplication and promote regulatory consistency and efficiency.
If the government of Alberta, through the Aboriginal Consultation Office (ACO), or otherwise directed consultation with an Indigenous group for related approvals (i.e., Public Lands Act, Water Act, Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, Historical Resources Act, Government Organization Act, etc.) the applicant must provide a copy of the pre-consultation assessment, the adequacy assessment and the specific issues and response table (if prepared).
If the government of Alberta, through the ACO or otherwise, indicated that a pre-consultation assessment is not required, the applicant must provide a copy of that direction.
If advice from the government of Alberta through the ACO has not been obtained, the applicant must provide justification for its decision to not seek advice.
If a First Nation reserve or Metis Settlement is located within the consultation radii for an application, as identified in Appendix A1 of AUC Rule 007, then the First Nation or Metis Settlement must be included in the participant involvement program (PIP).
If the government of Alberta, through the Alberta Consultation Office (ACO) or otherwise, directed consultation with any Indigenous groups for related approvals (i.e., Public Lands Act, Water Act, Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, Historical Resources Act, Government Organization Act, etc.), the applicant must include those Indigenous groups in the PIP for the AUC application.
If advice from the government of Alberta on consultation was not sought by the applicant, the applicant must summarize the steps it took to identify and consult with Indigenous groups. Applicants are encouraged to use the government of Alberta’s Landscape Analysis Indigenous Relations Tool (LAIRT) to inform their decisions about consultation.
If no steps were undertaken to identify and consult with Indigenous groups, the applicant must provide an explanation.
If an Indigenous group contacts the applicant and requests consultation the applicant should include the Indigenous group in the PIP or provide an explanation why it declined to do so.
The AUC requires an applicant to inform the Indigenous groups of, and involve them in discussions about, the applicant’s project if there is a potential for that project to impact Section 35 rights. Section 35 rights may be practiced on unoccupied Crown land and other lands to which the members of an Indigenous group have a right of access for such purposes.
The location of a First Nation reserve or Metis Settlement is only one factor applications should consider when determining if Indigenous groups should be included in the PIP. Other questions that should be consider are listed in Section 2.1 of AUC Rule 007 (page 136-138).