ALSA Q&A – Improved Aboriginal consultation?

ALSA Q&A – Improved Aboriginal consultation?

By Cindy Chiasson

Are there elements of the Land-Use Framework or the Alberta Land Stewardship Act that will help to improve current gaps within the government related to aboriginal consultation?

As a preface to this answer, I want to remind readers that the Environmental Law Centre’s expertise is in relation to environmental law, not aboriginal law, so this will not be a detailed examination of the Alberta government’s approach to aboriginal consultation.

The Land-Use Framework includes a page discussing the constitutional rights of aboriginal peoples to be consulted when they may be impacted by proposed development.  It also mentions Alberta’s existing policy for aboriginal consultation, Alberta’s First Nations Consultation Guidelines on Land Management and Resource Development and the government’s intent to update and modify that policy on an ongoing basis.  The Framework does not, however, appear to make any new commitments or create any new policy on aboriginal consultation.

The Consultation Guidelines mentioned above are also referred to in the terms of reference for both the Lower Athabasca and South Saskatchewan regional plans.  Both documents state that the regional plans will not modify the Consultation Guidelines.  The terms of reference documents also refer to the policy Strengthening Relationships: The Government of Alberta’s Aboriginal Policy Framework as one of several policies that will be integrated into the outcomes and strategies to be included in the regional plans.

Both the Lower Athabasca and South Saskatchewan terms of reference documents acknowledge the significance of traditional aboriginal land uses and direct the Regional Advisory Councils to advise on impacts on aboriginal communities and their constitutionally protected rights.  The South Saskatchewan terms of reference also indicate that aboriginal peoples will be encouraged to participate in the development of the regional plan, but do not set out any consultation process.

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