Guidance for proponents

Indigenous engagement

​​​​​​​​​Guidance for proponents

Before a utility project applicant submits an application to the AUC​, the applicant must develop a Participant Involvement Program (PIP) that includes Indigenous groups if there is a potential for the project to impact to Aboriginal and treaty rights, as provided in Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

The AUC's interim consultation and information requirements outlines existing best practices. These practices are applicable to all new transmission lines, substations, power plants, hydro projects, industrial system designations and gas utility pipelines filed on or afte​​r January 1, 2020.

The updated Rule 007, announced in March 2021, includes guidelines for applicants for including Indigenous groups in the PIP (Appendix A1-B – Participant).

The following is an overview of the guidelines for Indigenous consultation:

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.

The applicant must specifically address Indigenous consultation as part of the PIP and identify the Indigenous groups it consulted. If no steps were undertaken to identify and consult with Indigenous groups, the applicant must provide an explanation.

Applicants can seek feedback from the AUC staff on participant involvement for Indigenous groups by emailing the completed “Request for AUC staff feedback on participant involvement program for Indigenous group form" to indigconsult@auc.ab.ca.

Tips for filling out this form:

  • If the project requires related approvals from the Alberta government it is advisable to have the Aboriginal Consultation Office's pre-consultation assessment(s) prior to submitting this form.
  • Direct notice should be provided to an Indigenous group if there is potential to impact its Section 35 rights (e.g., hunting, fishing, trapping and traditional uses).

The Alberta government's Landscape Analysis and Indigenous Relations Tool (LAIRT) is a useful tool to identify which Indigenous groups the government would recommend for early engagement in an area, and the AUC recommends that applicants use the tool when developing a PIP.

The AUC's planning tool identifies three Indigenous consultation categories to improve regulatory consistency, predictable decision-making, and public transparency. In the event that an application has characteristics that fall into two or more categories, the more stringent notification requirements should be followed.

​Indigenous consultation category
​Description
​AUC notification requirements
Consultation Category A
​Crown has determined there is a duty to consult for related approvals (e.g., Water Act, Public Lands Act, EPEA).

and/or

A First Nation reserve or Metis Settlement is within the consultation areas (Notification radius right).
​Indigenous groups identified by the Crown must be included in the PIP.

First Nations or Metis Settlements with reserves or Settlements within the consultation area must be included in the PIP.
​Consultation Category B
​Applications for new projects or alterations that are:
  • Small (e.g., thermal power plants less than 10 megawatts).
  • On private land with limited to no off-site impacts (e.g., transmission lines, solar, wind).
  • In transportation/utility corridor.
  • Letters of enquiry.
​Indigenous groups not ordinarily included in the PIP.
​Consultation Category C
​Applications for new projects or amendments not captures by categories A and B.
​Application category will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis to determine whether the Indigenous groups should be included in the PIP.

         
In reviewing applications to determine if Indigenous groups should be included in the participant involvement program, the AUC considers the nature, scope, magnitude and duration of the potential adverse impacts on Section 35 rights. Some questions that the AUC considers during the assessment of projects can be found in AUC Rule 007: Applications for Power Plants, Substations, Transmission Lines, Industrial System Designations, Hydro Developments and Gas Utility Pipelines on page 138. 

Notification to Indigenous groups should be provided to the official consultation contact(s) and by the method identified on the ACO website.

It is helpful for the Indigenous groups to be notified early in project planning to provide sufficient time for relationship building, issue identification and mitigation exploration.

The applicant must retain documentation of potential mitigation measures for objections that were identified or considered through the notification and consultation process prior to filing an application. The applicant is expected to document all commitments made during its PIP and have a process in place to monitor and follow up on those commitments.

Applicants are encouraged to consider options to avoid, minimize, or mitigate impacts on Section 35 rights identified during consultation with Indigenous groups. Exploration of these concerns should be documented thoroughly in the consultation record.

Efforts to accommodate concerns may include:

  • Modifying project design.
  • Modifying project location or footprint.
  • Modifying project timing.
  • Seeking opportunities to mitigate impacts to traditional use.
  • Exploring options to address concerns regarding access.

The applicant must keep a log containing information on the dates notification occurred or was attempted, whether project information was provided, and to whom the project information was given, as well as any follow-up discussions.

The applicant must indicate if Indigenous groups were included the PIP. 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.

If resolution of concerns is not possible applicants are responsible for providing the AUC with the record of the consultation that was undertaken, including a summary of any objections received, mitigations discussed, and any outstanding objections.​
 

Key tips and things to know

  Proponents can get free application feedback on their Participant Involvement Program for Indigenous groups by filling out this form and sending to indigconsult@auc.ab.ca.


  Applicants must state if Indigenous consultation was undertaken. If no consultation was undertaken an explanation must be provided per AUC Rule 007. If this is not provided in the application it will result in an information request.


   Applications should identify if there is Crown land within the notification radii and whether that land has a designated use (i.e., recreational, grazing lease, wildlife reserve, etc.).


   The Aboriginal Consultation Office (ACO) has no direct role in the AUC’s regulatory process. If no related approvals (i.e. Water Act, Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, Public Lands Act) have been applied for, the AUC does not require the applicant to get consultation advice from the ACO.  ​​​

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