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Background

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This Toolkit was developed by the Ontario First Nations Environmental Assessment Technical Working Group (FNEATWG), an informal organization of EA practitioners in Ontario. Ontario FNEATWG participants include representatives from several Ontario First Nations, Chiefs of Ontario, political/provincial/territorial organizations (PTO’s), independent First Nations representatives and provincial and federal government agencies. The Ontario FNEATWG is focused on increasing the effectiveness of First Nation’s practice and participation in provincial and federal EA processes. One of FNEATWG’s goals is to create products and tools that will assist all parties in the following EA related areas:  

  • consultation;
  • capacity requirements and capacity development;
  • traditional knowledge (TK) and community based approaches to EA;
  • cumulative impact assessment;
  • socio-economic benefits; and
  • development agreements/impacts and benefits agreements.

The Ontario First Nations Environmental Assessment Toolkit is intended to be a useful tool to address these complex and interrelated issues. 

SCOPE OF THE TOOLKIT

The information in the Toolkit is presented by topic, and is illustrated through case studies and experiences of First Nations in various types of EA processes throughout Ontario and other regions of Canada. 

This Toolkit describes the basics of environmental assessment and specific aspects of the regulatory process for:

  • provincial EAs under the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act (EAA);
  • federal EAs under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA); and
  • coordinated EAs that occur when an EA is required by more than one regulatory authority.

It describes opportunities for Ontario First Nation participation in these regulatory processes and potential strategies for ensuring that your issues are addressed and your community’s perspective is considered. It also provides guidance to First Nations for interacting effectively with project proponents and regulatory agencies during and after EAs are conducted.

Some of the areas covered include:

  • consultation;
  • funding for participation;
  • using and protecting traditional knowledge (TK) in an EA;
  • negotiating agreements with proponents and government agencies; and
  • approaches to reviewing EA reports.

This Toolkit is not meant to be an in-depth training guide on EA practices, but instead provide relevant information on which to base strategies and to assist you in forming your own questions about a proposed development. The intent of this Toolkit is to help you to build capacity and confidence in your participation, to know where to go to find additional information and to identify situations where legal or technical assistance would be beneficial.

PERSPECTIVE

This Toolkit is neutral on the issue of proposed projects. The intent of the Toolkit is to provide information that will assist Ontario First Nations in understanding EA processes and in asking questions that can help them to assess the acceptability of a project from their First Nation's perspective. Asking relevant questions will help to ensure that First Nations are better informed when making decisions on proposed developments. This document is written primarily from a First Nation perspective. However, it also provides information on the perspectives of other participants in the EA process including project proponents, government regulators and decision makers.

THEME

The underlying theme of this Toolkit is full engagement in any EA process relevant to your community. It is only through effective participation that your First Nation can influence the EA process and outcome. By understanding the EA process and legislation, by participating actively and by having effective strategies, you are more likely to accurately represent your First Nation’s interests.

STRUCTURE OF THE TOOLKIT

The Toolkit is available in hardcopy and on CD. It consists of 12 sections:

SECTION 1 – Introduction to the Toolkit
SECTION 2 – Environmental Assessment Basics
SECTION 3 – Traditional Knowledge and Environmental Assessment
SECTION 4 – Ontario’s Environmental Assessment Process
SECTION 5 – Canada’s Environmental Assessment Process
SECTION 6 – Coordinated Environmental Assessments
SECTION 7 – Reviewing Environmental Assessment Reports
SECTION 8 – Follow-up Programs
SECTION 9 – Development Agreements
SECTION 10 – Detailed Case Study – Victor Diamond Mine
SECTION 11 – Detailed Case Study – Three Nations Bridge
APPENDIX 1 – Applying the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act on Reserves Abbreviations, Glossary and Index

Each section covers a main topic and is generally written so that it is informative, without the reader having to be familiar with the entire Toolkit. However, EA processes are complex and many topics are interrelated. Within each section, other sections of the Toolkit may be referenced so that you can find related or complementary information.

TOPICS OF INTEREST TO TOOLKIT USERS

The primary users of this Toolkit are expected to be Ontario First Nations EA practitioners who need to assess or participate in the assessment of a project which is on, or adjacent to, their lands. This could include staff who are representing a First Nation in an EA process, community leadership or community members.

This Toolkit may also be useful to provincial and federal regulatory agency personnel, project proponents and consultants. It can provide useful information to proponents and consultants as they work to engage Ontario First Nations in an EA process. This Toolkit focuses on EA practice in the province of Ontario. However, many parts of the Toolkit would be useful to Indigenous organizations and communities in other jurisdictions in Canada and around the world.

This Toolkit may also be useful to provincial and federal regulatory agency personnel, project proponents and consultants. It can provide useful information to proponents and consultants as they work to engage Ontario First Nations in an EA process. This Toolkit focuses on EA practice in the province of Ontario. However, many parts of the Toolkit would be useful to Indigenous organizations and communities in other jurisdictions in Canada and around the world.

The following lists of topics are starting points for different groups of users (if you are using the CD version, click on underlined words to connect directly to the section).

MAIN TOPICS

If you have a broad topic in mind, check the following sections:

  • What are environmental assessments and how are they done? (Section 2);
  • First Nation approaches to EA and project decision making (Section 7, Section 10, Section 11);
  • Ontario’s EA processes (Section 4);
  • Canada’s EA processes (Section 5);
  • coordinated review processes (Section 6);
  • use of traditional knowledge in EAs (Section 3);
  • suggestions for reviewing EA reports (Section 7);
  • follow-up programs (Section 8);
  • development agreements or impacts and benefits agreements (Section 9); and
  • Case Study – Victor Diamond Mine (Section 10); and
  • Case Study – Three Nations Bridge (Section 11).

FIRST NATION LEADERSHIP

The following key sections of the Toolkit may prove to be beneficial starting points for First Nation leadership in Ontario:

  • the common law duty of the Crown to consult with First Nations (Section 4, Section 5);
  • EA strategies (Section 3);
  • engaging the proponent (Section 3, Section 7, Section 9);
  • funding opportunities (Section 3, Section 4, Section 5);
  • assessing capacity (Section 3);
  • negotiating development agreements (Section 9); and
  • case studies (Sections 10, Section 11).

FEDERAL AND PROVINCIAL REGULATORY AGENCY PERSONNEL

The following sections of the Toolkit may prove helpful for regulatory agency personnel:

  • understanding what First Nations need to achieve in an EA (Section 2, Section 3, Section 10);
  • understanding the need for First Nations to negotiate their role in an EA (Section 3, Section 5, Section 9, Section 10, Section 11);
  • understanding the capacity needs of First Nations to participate in an EA (Section 3);
  • using traditional knowledge in an EA process (Section 3); and
  • understanding funding needs for a participating First Nation (Section 3, Section 5).

PROPONENTS AND CONSULTANTS

The following sections of the Toolkit may prove helpful for proponents and consultants:

  • understanding what First Nations need to achieve in an EA (Section 2, Section 3, Section 10);
  • understanding a First Nation’s need to have certainty about the environmental acceptability of a project before supporting it (Section 2, Section 8);
  • understanding a First Nation’s objectives for benefiting from a project (Section 3, Section 9);
  • understanding the need for participating First Nations to have expert technical assistance (Section 2);
  • understanding the experience of First Nations in challenging EAs (Section 10, Section 11);
  • using traditional knowledge in an EA process (Section 3);
  • understanding the meaning of consultation in the common law (Section 4, Section 5;
  • understanding First Nation consultation requirements in the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act (EAA) (Section 4); and
  • understanding First Nation considerations in the context of Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) (Section 5).

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