Speech for the Indian Resources Council
January 31, 2017
National Energy Board Chair/CEO Peter Watson
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- Good afternoon Elders, Chiefs, Councillors and other delegates.
- I would first like to thank the Indian Resource Council for allowing me to speak to the IRC members here today on the lands of the Enoch Cree Nation and the traditional territory of the Treaty 6 First Nations. This is a critical time for both of our organizations right now, and for our collective path forward.
- A lot of people are only aware of the National Energy Board through our Energy Adjudication process – or public hearings for energy infrastructure projects.
- However, there’s a lot more to our work than that. We have a bigger and more critical role to play in Canada’s resource development system.
- The NEB is accountable for making sure that the 73,000 kilometres of existing, functioning pipelines under our jurisdiction are being maintained and in-service safely, with minimal disruption to the environment, and to the people who live and work around them every day.
- Unlike our application hearing processes, which are judicial and very prescribed, we have much more flexibility outside the hearing process in how we approach our safety oversight and environmental protection role. We are committed to engage more meaningfully, to learn from people and communities about what is important to them, and to adjust our processes in response.
- You are stewards of the land. We at the NEB are stewards of public safety and environmental protection, associated with energy infrastructure.
- We share a common goal in that respect, and we can work together to achieve that goal.
- Over the past number of months, I have been meeting with Indigenous leaders and asking them how the NEB can do this...
- how can we more meaningfully engage with Indigenous Peoples to better understand your concerns about the projects we regulate
- and how can we better involve you in the lifecycle oversight work we do, to ensure safety and environmental protection, outside of the hearing process?
- I would appreciate your thoughts on these questions today, and on an ongoing basis.
- But before we do that, I would like to talk about a couple of initiatives that are currently in place to support this goal.
- On November 29, 2016, the Prime Minister announced approval of the TransMountain Expansion and the Enbridge Line 3 Replacement projects, and that Canada – through the Major Project Management Office-West – will co-develop advisory and monitoring committees with Indigenous communities along the routes of those 2 projects.
- The Indigenous Advisory and Monitoring Committees will be created to provide meaningful opportunities for Indigenous peoples to participate in monitoring activities along these pipeline corridors.
- Co-development of the Terms of Reference for the Committees will help align the interests of Indigenous groups to play a more active role in advice and monitoring of pipeline construction and operations.
- It will help us, the Regulator to more fully engage Indigenous groups in major resource development projects that have an impact on their communities.
- The Committees will allow for ongoing identification and resolution of issues of importance to Indigenous groups, and contribute to the effectiveness of the Board’s lifecycle oversight of pipeline construction operations.
- This is an important step forward. We are putting in place a foundation, and beginning a new way of working.
- Meaningfully engaging Indigenous peoples and seeking opportunities for you to work alongside us is how the NEB plans to operate, going forward. We plan on learning how to do this, through our commitment to these two Committees.
- The NEB has also cemented our commitment to meaningful engagement in our Departmental Results Framework (which you can review on our web site).
- Engaging with Indigenous Peoples on topics within the NEB’s mandate and role – and beyond the hearing process – is now recognized as a Core Responsibility of the Board.
- We are applying clear outcomes, and performance indicators, that will enable us to demonstrate that we are achieving what we set out to do.
- We are aligning the resources we need to fulfill that commitment. And, we are applying the full rigour of our Management System, with a defined cycle of Plan, Do, Check, and Adjust – that will drive continual improvement in the way we work.
- This is nothing short of transformative for our organization.
- We understand the critical importance of public trust: We fully support the Government of Canada’s review to modernize the NEB and are committed to helping the Government achieve its objectives.
- That said, we are moving ahead with transformational work on the things that are currently within our mandate – and better engagement of Indigenous Peoples is of key importance to us right now, as it is for the broader federal government.
- As I stated before – meaningful engagement is now a core responsibility for us, and the heart of our work. So we need your guidance. How can we make it meaningful to you?
- We want to hear from you about what the issues of importance are, the kinds of information you require and what we can do to provide it.
- The NEB looks to the IRC as a thought-partner in this. Our positive discussions together and the NEB’s ability to participate in initiatives like IRC’s Pipeline 101 course has, I believe, given us a good foundation to build on.
- Our government is committed to renewing the relationship with Indigenous peoples, based on the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership. And the NEB is also committed to this.
- With over 73,000 km of pipeline infrastructure already in the ground, and new projects proceeding to construction, we want to work with you as we discharge our stewardship for public safety and environmental protection.
- I am genuinely looking forward to continuing these discussions with Indigenous leaders.
- If you have a chance today, I invite you to visit our staff who have set up a booth at the Trade Show exhibition. They’ll be happy to answer your questions and hear your views. But first let me reiterate what we need to understand from you:
- how we can engage with Indigenous Peoples to better understand your concerns about the projects we regulate; and,
- and how we can best involve you in the lifecycle oversight work we do to ensure safety and environmental protection, outside of the hearing process?
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