The Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE) has released a Draft Aboriginal Consultation Guide for preparing a Renewable Energy Approval Application (“Guide”). The Guide lays out the requirements for project proponents to consult with Aboriginal communities in the Renewable Energy Approval (REA) process. It also gives good practice tips for effective consultation.
At this point the Guide is a draft only, and it is unknown when it will come into effect.
Who is affected?
Proponents of renewable energy projects except waterpower projects, Class 2 wind projects and Class 1 and 2 solar projects will be required to follow the guidelines.
Proponents must consult with First Nation and Métis communities. It is important to recognize that each community will have a different culture, history, linguistic heritage, and prior dealings with the Crown and energy projects that will affect their views.
The Crown is required to consult Aboriginal communities when it is aware of an existing or asserted Aboriginal or treaty right, and it is considering taking action that may negatively affect that right. In the REA process, the Crown has delegated the consultation procedure to project proponents. The Guide details the process that, when it takes effect, proponents must follow in order to help the Crown to meet its consultation obligations.
Consultation is designed to pass information between the proponent and the community, and allow the proponent to take the community’s concerns into consideration in the planning process. The ultimate goal is to avoid, or at least to minimize, any adverse impact on treaty rights.
The MOE has discretion to require the proponent to take additional steps, or may do additional consultation itself. In this case, a formal Aboriginal consultation plan may be required.
Ontario Regulation 359/09 of the Environmental Protection Act sets out the minimum consultation process required of proponents. The following is a quick reference guide only:
- Prepare draft Project Description Report (PDR) and submit to MOE.
- MOE will review proposal and provide list of Aboriginal communities to be consulted.
- MOE will notify communities that an applicant will be contacting them.
- Deliver “Notice of Proposal to Engage” in the project, “Notice of Public Meeting,” and details of the project to every community on the list. Publish notices in local newspapers. Follow up to confirm receipt.
- Distribute draft PDR to communities at least 30 days before first meeting.
- Hold first public meeting. Meetings are open to the general public, not just Aboriginal persons.
- *Integrate community comments into PDR and REA application.
- Circulate draft versions to communities of all REA application materials, updated PDR, and any information on potentially adverse effects on treaty rights.
- Request information in writing about adverse impacts and suggested measures to mitigate them.
- Discuss and work with communities; integrate comments
- Provide paper copies of revised project documents reflecting changes to date available to communities at least 60 days before final meeting.
- *Discuss and work with communities; integrate comments
- Hold final public meeting
- *Integrate community comments
- Prepare Consultation Report detailing the process followed, information received from communities, how comments were integrated, and reasons for choosing plans to mitigate impact.
- Prepare and submit REA application.
- MOE will post proposal notice on the Environmental Registry.
- Inform communities that application submitted.
While the Guide provides a good starting point for understanding the consultation process, each REA application will have different requirements. Each case must be dealt with individually. Knowledge, experience and expertise are necessary to ensure a cost-effective consultation process.
For more information on the REA process, the duty to consult Aboriginal communities, or advice on environmental and Aboriginal legal issues, contact Sandra Gogal at 416.595.8574 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.