Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources
Issue 25 - Evidence - June 5, 2012
OTTAWA, Tuesday, June 5, 2012
The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources met this day at 5:21 p.m. to examine the subject matter of those elements contained in Part 3 of Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures.
Senator W. David Angus (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources. I welcome our witness, Mr. Dennis Fentie, from the Yukon Territory, and our viewers on CPAC and the World Wide Web.
Today, we continue our pre-study of Bill C-38, the budget implementation bill. It is a modest piece of work spanning some 471 pages plus appendices. We have held five sessions on this matter. This evening, we are privileged to have with us a distinguished gentleman from the same part of the world as our colleague Senator Lang: Mr. Dennis Fentie, former Premier of Yukon. He was first elected to represent Watson Lake in the Yukon Legislative Assembly in the general election of September 1996. He was re-elected in April 2000, November 2002 and October 2006. He was first sworn in as Premier and as a cabinet minister on November 30, 2002, and reappointed to cabinet in October 2006. He was the leader of the Yukon Party from June 2002 to May 2011.
As a business person, Mr. Fentie has a long history of involvement in a variety of economic activities, including logging, tourism, mining, trucking and fuel distribution. Most recently, he was owner and manager of Francis River Construction Limited in Watson Lake. Until his election as an MLA, he was director of the Association of Yukon Forests. He is also a former director for the Watson Lake Chamber of Commerce.
Mr. Fentie was born in Edmonton on November 8, 1950, and moved to Watson Lake at the age of 12. He has been an active participant in baseball and senior hockey and is a former minor hockey coach. He also maintains a keen interest in history and current affairs. He and his partner, Lorraine, live in Watson Lake. We are delighted to have you here, sir.
One thing that we have been questioning in our review of Bill C-38, in particular Part 3, deals with resource development and the streamlining of environmental assessment processes. Was this a unilateral initiative of the federal government or were the provinces and territories consulted and involved in the process? We will hear from Mr. Fentie on many subjects, in particular that one.
Mr. Fentie, I would like you to know who we are. I am Senator David Angus, Chair of the Energy Committee; and I am from Quebec. To my right is our deputy chair, Senator Grant Mitchell, from Alberta. To his right are people from the Library of Parliament, Sam Banks and Marc LeBlanc. Going down the table, we have Senator Nancy Ruth, from Ontario, who is filling in tonight for the absent Senator Richard Neufeld, from British Columbia. Next to Senator Nancy Ruth is Senator Sibbeston, from the Northwest Territories. He has great knowledge of northern issues. To my immediate left is the Clerk of the Energy Committee, Ms. Lynn Gordon; and to her left are Senator Johnson, from Manitoba; Senator Judith Seidman, from Quebec; Senator Daniel Lang, from Yukon; Senator John Wallace, from New Brunswick; and another visitor tonight, Senator Dyck, who is filling in this evening for Senator Peterson, from Saskatchewan. Senator Dyck, it is nice to have you here. I think it is your first time at the Energy Committee. Welcome. Welcome to Senator Nancy Ruth, as well. Last but not least is our elected senator from the great province of Alberta, Senator Bert Brown.
Without further ado, you have the floor, sir, to tell us what you have to say about Bill C-38. We will question you afterwards. Colleagues, following that, we will go in camera to deal with a couple of matters.
Dennis Fentie, Former Premier of Yukon, as an individual: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, senators, ladies and gentlemen. Indeed, it is a great honour and privilege to be here to speak to Bill C-38, in particular the sections relating to energy, the environment and natural resources.
I want to first make clear that I am here to speak in favour of Bill C-38 but more importantly in favour of initiatives, such as streamlining environmental assessment processes and putting one project under one review. I will qualify that to some degree by explaining a couple of things. In my time in office serving as Premier of Yukon from 2002 to 2011, I can tell you, senators, that one of the common items of discussion at the national table over those years, and even most recently post-2008 with the global economic situation that we were facing, was constant concern about how we can get development, especially in the resource sector, economic growth and the creation of jobs if we cannot implement a clear and consistent assessment process for projects.
I also want to relay to the committee that Yukon is an example in this country where there is one environmental assessment process. It has not reduced in any way the rigor of assessment, but it has created a consistent application of assessment and timelines that put the onus more on industry, if you will, to ensure that they meet the objectives of environmental assessment, while determining impacts and presenting mitigating initiatives to address those environmental impacts.
Over time, there have been many examples of the problems that the CEAA brought to us in trying to get development going.
If you look at things like the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline as an example, the nine years it took to get where it is at is extremely problematic to attract investment and keep Canada competitive in a global market, which we are definitely a member of and a competitor in.
The move in Bill C-38 to create a more streamlined, consistent and efficient process is one that is long overdue.
I can also point to the fact that when we in the Yukon fully implemented the Yukon Environmental and Socio- economic Assessment Act, YESAA — which by the way is a federal statute and replaced the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act — it has given Yukon, to this point in time, somewhat of a competitive advantage in attracting investment. I think we can all agree that investment out there in the global marketplace tends to be limited. The resource development is cyclical. If you cannot assess projects and development in a timely, consistent manner, you will inevitably lose any advantage you may have in terms of competing for the investment dollars that are available.
More importantly, in today's world, with the economic issues and challenges we face, it is essential that Canada can develop its abundance of natural resources in a manner that will benefit Canadians in general, that is responsible and in the public interest, and that will keep Canada competitive in that global marketplace.
Without the development of resources and consistent, timely assessment processes, as we have in the past, we will surely place a negative light on the Canadian development and its overall place in the global marketplace.
Senators, at the end of the day, streamlining, clearly defining, implementing timelines, is essential for Canada to continue on this path of economic development, job creation and prosperity for the future. We in the Yukon are an example of how it works with a single process, with timelines being implemented. In fact, in looking at the comparisons of YESAA and the proposed changes to CEAA, now called Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012, there are a lot of common areas that make sense. In many cases, we think that this will certainly give Canada an advantage in ensuring that we have continued growth and development, especially in Western and Northern Canada. I think we have to recognize another fact in that regard.
The development of Western and Northern Canada and the wealth it generates is a major contributing factor to this country's ability to ensure that all Canadians are benefiting from that development. All one has to do is look at our program of equalization and recognize that receiving provinces are benefiting from the development of the oil sands in Alberta and from mines in British Columbia and the Yukon. This contributes substantially to the national coffers and to our overall general revenue, which in turn allows for the federal government to provide equalization payments to receiving provinces as it does today.
It is important for us all, coast to coast to coast, to recognize that environmental assessment processes are not ones to obstruct or impede development. However, our assessment processes determine environmental impacts and ensure that mitigating processes can be brought to bear to address those impacts, thereby allowing industry and especially the private sector to pursue investment and develop this great nation and continue on our pathway to prosperity.
I will close with that and await any of your questions.
Senator Lang: First, I want to welcome Mr. Fentie. I want to say at the outset, for those who have not recognized it, Mr. Fentie is wearing the Yukon tartan, his tie. I know the chair, Senator Angus, probably recognized that right off the bat as soon as he sat down.
The Chair: I have seen you in your kilt. It is quite a frightening sight.
Mr. Fentie: Those legs.
Senator Lang: Senator Neufeld is not with us. He represents the riding that was right next door to Mr. Fentie when he was in elected office. They could drive up and down the highway to visit each other.
Mr. Fentie: Yes.
Senator Lang: I have two questions. One is the question of First Nations involvement in the process and how it works in the Yukon, because that is a major issue across the country. How can we get those who want to be involved in the resource development to benefit from it and see the benefit of resource development for Canada?
Second, when you look back on your days as premier — from where you started as premier, first took office and when you left office — can you tell us the amount of capital that was being invested in Yukon when the process first came into place and where we are today in respect of the capital that we have attracted, not only from Canada but from offshore?
Mr. Fentie: Senator, on your first question about First Nation involvement, I think we have to recognize that notwithstanding the requirements under law of environmental assessment, First Nations also must be consulted, especially on matters that will impact traditional lands. Of course, that also means a traditional way of life. There is that aspect.
Let me speak directly to the Yukon experience and what the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act is all about. It is an instrument that was developed under the land claim process. It is a common application of law — federal statute — implemented in the Yukon that has the full involvement and approval of Yukon First Nations because it was spawned out of their land claim process.
Though there may be much rhetoric about the streamlining of CEAA and that it will exclude First Nations' involvement, I would submit that is, in fact, incorrect. There are a number of other very important areas and law — and indeed constitutional linkages — that will ensure First Nations are involved in such processes that address and assess projects in their traditional territory.
On the second part, when first taking office in 2002, the Yukon was in double-digit unemployment. It had an ever- shrinking population. By way of monetary numbers, I can tell you that first year in office, Yukon's overall investment in mining exploration and beyond was around $5 million.
Two years later, after the implementation of devolution, which devolved federal programs to the Yukon, and the implementation and bringing into force and effect of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act, today's Yukon is the recipient of investments in resource development, for example, of some $300 million to $400 million.
One can certainly point to the fact that resource development is cyclical. However, you must attract that investment at the beginning of cycles and ensure you maximize and retain the maximum amount of benefit from those cycles. There are assessment processes that impede that. You can see that, certainly in the Yukon, we would not have been the beneficiary of such a dramatic increase. We have done this without impeding or reducing environmental assessment and protection. In fact, the Yukon now has some 13 per cent of land base under some form of protection. When I left office, that was second only to British Columbia. We have not in any way negatively affected industries like tourism. In fact, it has become somewhat complementary.
Overall, I cannot stress enough how important it is for this country to have a similar assessment process that allows this kind of positive benefit accruing to Canadians in general.
Senator Sibbeston: Thank you. I just want to make a comment about the Northwest Territories and the time that it has taken to deal with the Mackenzie Valley pipeline, as an example. I think Canadians have to understand that the Northwest Territories is an emerging part of our country. There are a lot of Aboriginal people living there.
Industrial development, in terms of the size of pipelines, is new. If we are not careful, people can be inundated; they can be overwhelmed and crushed. People have to be mindful of that. Over the course of the last decade, there have been great advancements in settling claims and in Aboriginal people becoming very involved in industry and the business life of the North. Progress has been made.
I think that 20 or 25 years ago, every Aboriginal person in the North was against large projects like the Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline. Nowadays, I would say most of the native people are in favour of development, primarily because there have been settlements, so there is certainty of land tenure, they have resources to partake in, and there are also means through environmental boards that they can control environmental issues. Things have changed a lot.
Would you say, Mr. Fentie, that Yukon is advanced in this regard? I think most Aboriginal people in the Yukon have their claims settled. That is a very positive thing. In that situation, they are more likely to be supportive and be involved. It is just like anything: If you are going to be involved and get something out of it, you are likely to support it as opposed to just being run over and pushed aside.
Mr. Fentie: Bystanders, if you will.
Senator Sibbeston: Can you comment on that, please?
Mr. Fentie: Certainly, senator. You are correct in your assertion that great advancements have been made over the last decade plus in terms of the settlement of land claims.
However, maybe the best way for me to respond to your question is to reflect on the fact that there is a distinct difference between Yukon and the Northwest Territories. Yukoners, First Nations included, are masters in their own house vis-à-vis devolution. I know the NWT is pursuing that initiative as we speak in trying to conclude an agreement with Canada. However, to your point, when people at the local level can make decisions on their own behalf and be involved in decisions that truly affect them and their lives and their future, we have a much more willing environment with people, especially First Nations, to proceed with development.
That is one of the advantages Yukon has had over the last number of years: We are masters in our own house and we can make decisions and be very much involved in decisions that have an impact on our lives.
Senator Mitchell: Thank you very much, Mr. Fentie. This is a very impressive presentation and we appreciate your taking the time to be here.
I am interested, first, in the question of the authority of First Nations over land that might be the subject of development. I am not suggesting for a minute that First Nations people are opposed to development as a general rule, but to some extent it is an issue — the Gateway, for example. In your experience, or in your understanding in the Yukon, if development were to go across, be placed in or be situated in the land that is settled land, about to be settled land or thought to be in that process, and the Aboriginal group with the authority of the land just said no, would you have the power to expropriate? That is my first question. Second, do you think the Yukon would use that power? Third, would industry want to be put in a position of building a project on expropriated land with people who did not want them to be there?
Mr. Fentie: First, let me categorically say that the Yukon government cannot expropriate selected settlement land in the Yukon; these are called Settlement A land, which includes surface and subsurface rights, and Settlement B land, which includes surface rights. In fact, those lands are held in trust for the beneficiaries of that particular First Nation.
The direction Yukon went is the application of common regimes. Let us take Yukon Oil and Gas Act, for example. The application of that act applies both on Crown and on First Nation land. Therefore, through the legal structure and mechanisms in Yukon, First Nations as governments have the right under those statutes to make decisions on their own lands.
The other point is that YESAB is a common regime applied both to Crown and settlement land. Therefore, we have a legal structure in Yukon that tends to bring people more together for common purpose to meet common objectives because we have a common legal structure that we apply to such things as resource development, whether it be on Crown land or on First Nation land itself.
Senator Mitchell: Therefore, it is not actually a question of you, the Yukon government, ever being in a position of imposing something on Aboriginal governments; that would never be the case. Is that what you are saying?
Mr. Fentie: Legally, we probably could not do it. Second, industry would deal directly with the First Nation itself and any royalties or benefits that accrue from development of resources, for example, on selected land would accrue directly to the First Nations.
We have the example of the Minto mine in Yukon that actually sits and operates on selected A land. The revenues from that are Yukon's share and a lot of that share of the revenue for that operating mine goes to Canada, but the revenues that accrue to Yukon flow directly to the First Nation itself. Therefore, there is a great benefit.
To Senator Sibbeston's point, if you are not getting anything out of the development, it is less likely you would support a development. In this case, Yukon First Nations do benefit greatly from development specifically on their lands.
I want to qualify that by making one more statement, sir. We also share royalties with Yukon First Nations such as the royalties we receive from oil and gas. There is a formula whereby the amount that Yukon receives is directly shared with the First Nations in Yukon. It is called the Kotaneelee fund.
Senator Mitchell: That is interesting. Say a project is exclusively on Aboriginal land, over which they have authority under the structure you have described, who actually supervises, monitors, and does the checking of the environmental process that needs to be done?
Mr. Fentie: They would apply the common regime, which is YESA. The First Nation government has authority, and industry would have to deal directly with the First Nation government. The Yukon government would use its good offices to assist both industry and the First Nation in that process by providing information — for example, detailed data on resource, biophysical data we may have in the department of the environment.
These are the types of things that the Yukon government would provide, in input and processes, that are directly related to industry and First Nation government.
Senator Mitchell: What role does the federal government have? Under the new regime, it looks like the federal government might delegate a province to do something, but they will stay in touch, monitor and check to make sure that whatever needs to be done is being done. Essentially, you are the equivalent of the federal government and the provincial government. Is there any checking? Is the federal government looking over your shoulder at all in that process?
Mr. Fentie: Firstly, we are not a province, and the best way to clearly define why that is is that we do not have ownership of resources. Under devolution, Yukon is the manager of lands, water and resources, and we manage those resources under federal statute, the Yukon Waters Act, the Yukon Lands Act and the Quartz Mining Act, for example. YESAA is a federal statute. The Yukon Oil and Gas Act is a federal statute that has been passed in the Yukon Legislative Assembly and in Parliament.
Yes, the federal government does have a say in matters, but we, as managers, go through the process, and if there are any issues that may contradict those statutes or that law, yes, they will be involved.
Secondly, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Fisheries Act — I think we are all aware of this fact — takes precedence over all of these matters should there be impact to fish or fish habitat.
Senator Mitchell: Are you concerned, with all the cuts to the Department of Environment, Department of Fisheries and other agencies that would have some bearing on this process, that, when the feds are required to do something, they have the resources to do it and that that, in itself, will not become a delay?
Mr. Fentie: I have no concern about budgetary items that the federal government undertakes. What we were more concerned about is duplication of process, needless expenditure in areas that the Yukon Department of Environment may already be doing.
The rhetoric is getting way over the top about gutting environmental assessment and all this stuff and doom and gloom. The real discussion should be taking place around how we can make this the most effective, efficient process on behalf of Canadians to ensure that we pursue development and prosperity but, at the same time, protect the environment, habitat and overall biodiversity for future generations. That is what the discussion should be all about.
Senator Dyck: Thank you for your presentation. I am going to follow up on what my colleagues were discussing. You probably answered most of the questions that I had written down.
One of the things you said was that First Nations must be consulted during the development of this new environmental act. Sitting as a member and deputy chair of the Aboriginal Peoples Committee over the last seven years, I have heard over and over and over again that, most times, First Nations are not consulted. What was the secret? It sounds like things are going very well in the Yukon, and my guess would be that that is because you have undergone the land claims settlement; in order to get that done, of course, the First Nations there played a very active role and were consulted in concluding that negotiation.
Mr. Fentie: You are correct in your assertion that in Yukon, because of our land claims process, the creation of self- government and the way that that settlement concluded, we are clearly defining, by way of that agreement, when and how we consult, in terms of how much consultation is required. However, we all must understand that there is legal precedent here, whereby the court of this country has clearly determined that, when it comes to development that will impact traditional ways of life and traditional lands, both governments — federal and provincial or territorial — and industry must consult the affected First Nations.
Senator Dyck: Thank you. With respect to YESAA, how does that compare to what is being proposed now in the CEAA with respect to timelines for completing environmental assessments?
Mr. Fentie: I am glad you asked that because I happen to have a little bit of information here in regard to that. When it comes to standard environmental assessments under the proposed CEAA, there is a timeline of one year. In Yukon, it is a designated office evaluation, and it is 36 to 134 days, less time for that type of assessment.
On review panels, which are much more rigorous and stringent assessments, you are talking about two years under the proposed changes for CEAA. In Yukon, these are environmental screenings that could also include public hearings and panel reviews. Those timelines are one to two years.
Senator Dyck: It is comparable or even shorter?
Mr. Fentie: Ours is a little shorter, but we have to reflect on something else here; an environmental assessment and its conclusion is one matter, but projects tend to also require one to obtain water licences, if that is applicable, land use permits, if that is applicable, or mining licences. In Yukon, a quartz mining licence is required if you are going to mine a hard rock mine, so there are even more processes outside of the normal environmental assessment processes that industry must go through to ensure that they can proceed with their operation.
Senator Dyck: If you were to compare YESAA with CEAA with respect to the overall provisions, would you say that they are very similar? I am thinking mostly of First Nations because, in other areas of the country, the socio- economic impact on First Nations may not be as well represented as it seems to be within YESAA.
Mr. Fentie: First, YESAA is the instrument or product of the Yukon land claims. Its creation was a three-party process — federal and territorial governments and all Yukon First Nations — so it created an instrument that ensures that certain elements of First Nation requirements are being met by that assessment act.
If you look at the proposed changes in this area under Bill C-38, there are elements of social assessment that must be done through an environmental assessment process. To your question about whether they are comparable, yes, they are very comparable because the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act replaced CEAA. The distinct difference here is that the application of that environmental assessment is done locally, whereas CEAA, anywhere else in this country, would be done more at the federal level.
We, in the Yukon, become the decision makers by way of our district offices and our YESAA board. We call it YESAB, Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, and it has appointments from First Nations guaranteed. Yukon and the federal government also appoint members to that board.
Senator Dyck: It would seem to me that if we could take the elements that you have and represent them in the federal act, we would have something that is extremely workable with respect to First Nations.
Mr. Fentie: On that point, because YESAA is a product of a Yukon land claim, you may not find that in other areas of the country. Maybe the best way for me to put it is that Yukon does not have reservations; it has selected land, ownership by First Nations, and First Nations have self-governing rights on that land.
That is not the case in provinces that have Treaty 8 and Treaty 6 and all those matters that are a century-plus worth of tangled issues and commitments and so on. I would suggest to you that Yukon is an example that can be looked to as we proceed down this road, which may be beneficial to other jurisdictions that want to undertake a process that is similar to that.
The fact of the matter is that our act is, in many ways, mirroring the Canadian environmental assessment process; it is just that it is a different instrument created in a much different way, at a local level, with the involvement of the federal government.
Senator Wallace: Thank you, premier. Senator Dyck has touched on the first question I had. I was listening to you describe what seem to be real benefits from the changes that were made under YESAA in developing and having reasonable development in the North and the Yukon. How does that compare to what we have under Bill C-38? Senator Dyck has touched on a number of those points.
When you compare YESAA and see the more streamlined process that you have under YESAA, are there other elements that you have not mentioned so far that you see in Bill C-38 that would perhaps result in a more streamlined process to achieve the benefits that you have experienced?
Mr. Fentie: I would be hesitant to say that you should nationally adopt something that was locally developed and an instrument that was created for a specific purpose under a land claim process. I would be hesitant to say that. I did say moments ago that Yukon is certainly a jurisdiction that can be looked to as an example of how we have done things that have improved dramatically the efficiencies and timeliness of assessment processes.
Let me also add the fact that in the past — and I think we can demonstrate that by countless examples — an inefficient, untimely and unreasonable process has driven investment for this country offshore. Yukon was a prime example of that years ago.
One of the things we have to reflect on here is that this is a living process. As we go through changes to such instruments as CEAA, we will find in the future that further changes will be required, depending on the time we are in and what we are dealing with at that specific time. It is a living document.
That is why we built into YESAA a five-year review, which is under way. That review is to determine and address areas of problem, areas of improvement, and so forth. If we look to it in that manner, that these changes are merely a step in a long road ahead of us to continue to address issues important to this nation and in the public interest, then I think we can all agree that future changes certainly will be required to improve it and make it more efficient and even more reflective of what Canadians want at any given time, namely, the public interest.
Senator Wallace: You certainly speak positively about the need to have a more streamlined process, and that has been your experience in the Yukon. You seem quite familiar with the changes proposed under Bill C-38.
Mr. Fentie: I have not read the whole act, senator, I must confess, but specific to this area, I think, yes, I am.
Senator Wallace: To the extent you have looked at CEAA, are there any other elements you see in Bill C-38 relating to streamlining that strike you as being positive that you have not touched on so far?
Mr. Fentie: Off the top of my head, I cannot relay a specific item by section to you.
Senator Wallace: Just general concepts.
Mr. Fentie: In general terms, this is something that has been sought over the many years that I have been involved at the national level, at first ministers' meetings, Western ministers' meetings, Northern ministers' meetings, Council of the Federation, and I have touched on recently, post-2008, when we met premiers and the Prime Minister to develop a stimulus program for this country. This has been a constant issue. All areas of efficiency and streamlining of CEAA that the government is bringing forward I see positively, but future changes may be required. It will not be perfect. YESAA is not perfect. We do not live in a perfect world, and those changes will surface. Those needs will surface as we go forward. This is a critical point in time, and implementing this process, I think, is critical to the future of this country, because without development, growth and job creation, we are all in trouble.
Senator Wallace: Balanced with economic growth and job creation, of course, is protection of the environment.
Mr. Fentie: That is correct.
Senator Wallace: That is the uppermost part of all of this. In developing the more streamlined process in the Yukon, do you feel comfortable that you have also provided that environmental protection that the public is expecting? Again, I am trying to draw the parallels. We obviously want to have the comfort with Bill C-38 that the environmental protection will be there with these changes. What has your response been?
Mr. Fentie: I would submit that nothing in streamlining, making clear processes and putting in timelines, as we experienced in the Yukon with YESAA, reduced the rigours of environmental assessment and protection. Ultimately, the objective in these processes is to determine environmental impacts, what they are, how severe, and then the onus is on industry to show and demonstrate that they can mitigate those impacts for ensuring sustainability of the environment.
I do not think at any time CEAA, YESAA or any other environmental assessment instrument was intended to be obstructive or to impede development for this country. It was intended to determine what the impacts are and to ensure that we can protect our environment by implementing mitigating measures.
Senator Wallace: Thank you very much, premier.
Senator Seidman: Thank you, premier. You have talked a lot about the environmental assessment process because you have had a lot of questions about it. You have done a good job of describing the changes that you see will come about.
You talked a bit about the review boards, the people who are involved in the assessment process. Could you go into a little more detail about that? Who is involved, and how did it come about they were involved or would be involved?
Mr. Fentie: In the Yukon?
Senator Seidman: Yes.
Mr. Fentie: Let me first go to the district or designated offices. These are offices set up by way of hiring employees who are charged with the duty of assessing lower-level projects, if you will, and determining what process must proceed to allow that project to reach its ultimate goals and objectives. Those people are hired, and the oversight for that is by the board itself, the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board. The members on that board are citizens appointed to that board by First Nations, by Yukon, and by the federal government. They are charged not only with the duty of implementing the act itself but also with ensuring that a regulatory package this thick is also being addressed through any assessment process. These members are citizens. They are appointed, and they have a specific mandate and duties to perform.
Senator Seidman: Were they appointed for a term?
Mr. Fentie: Yes. There are timelines for their appointment, including the chairmanship and the other members of the board.
Senator Seidman: You say they are members from the Yukon, the federal government and First Nations. Is that correct?
Mr. Fentie: Yes.
Senator Seidman: Could you tell me a bit about, for example, the First Nations members who are appointed?
Mr. Fentie: Names are brought forward by the First Nations themselves. The First Nations gather. In the Yukon, it is through the Council of Yukon First Nations, CYFN. They determine what members or names they want to bring forward for appointment. Once done, the Yukon does not oppose those particular appointments, and they are put into force and effect by way of order-in-council by the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
With respect to federal appointments, names are brought forward by way of consultation, both with Yukon and with First Nations. Again, that is brought into force and effect by way of order-in-council, the same as with Yukon appointments. We go through a process there that ultimately determines who we will be appointed to the board.
Senator Seidman: For me the issue would be how the First Nations people are appointed to the board, and that would be pretty critical.
Mr. Fentie: They do that themselves.
Senator Seidman: That is excellent. Thank you very much.
Mr. Fentie: By the way, we also provide in Yukon a level of training and orientation that goes with these appointments. You do not just toss people into the fray, if you will. There is some work done with these people to orient them and get them focused on exactly what their responsibilities are, what the liabilities are and what the mandate is.
Senator Seidman: You have anticipated my next question. Now that you have answered it, that is excellent. There is a degree of training these people to understand their roles and understand the importance of what they are about to do?
Mr. Fentie: Yes.
Senator Seidman: Thank you.
Senator Brown: Thank you for your presentation. It seems to me you said that Yukoners own the lands, and I think that makes a tremendous difference.
Mr. Fentie: No. Yukoners do not own the land. When it comes to Crown land, we are managers. The Federal Crown still owns the land. Yukon First Nations, by way of their settlements, own Settlement A lands, surface and subsurface, and Settlement B lands, surface. They have those rights.
Senator Brown: That is what I was trying to get to, that they actually own some land where they could locate a house.
Mr. Fentie: The resources as well.
Senator Brown: Yes, and they have resources. I spent five years as chair of a planning commission around Calgary, and there are reservations there that did very well because they did own the land that they worked on. The people who wanted to build a house there, they were actually smart enough to rent it on a renewable lease, but it was a lease because they actually owned it and owned the land as well. I will not name the reservations, but there were a couple we had to deal with that were just impossible because there was no ownership of the house or houses, so they deteriorated really fast. I actually saw a horse inside a house at one time when I drove by, which was kind of startling. We had the same thing in another place outside of Calgary.
If you could give us some advice as to how those reservations in the future could transition to more ownership of their houses, their land and some of their resources as well, then I think you have a solution. Until we do that, I see a lot of reservations that will not grow as fast as they should and as fast as they have the right to.
Mr. Fentie: At the risk of being quite blunt, I would submit, senators, that it is time to deal with the Indian Act. Let me make the point in this manner: In Yukon, Yukon First Nations are out from under the Indian Act because of the land claims process there. If you want to improve the lot of Aboriginal people in this country, address the Indian Act. It is archaic; it belongs with the dinosaurs, and it is time to deal with it in the appropriate manner.
Senator Brown: Thank you. I could not have said it better myself. That is exactly what I wanted to hear from you.
The Chair: Colleagues, I have no other names on my list.
Mr. Fentie, I would like to make sure I understand that as far as this legislation is concerned, your territory, the Yukon, has participated in the work that went into Part 3, streamlining the resource development process, and I take it from your evidence that you are pleased with it. Is that right?
Mr. Fentie: Yes. Yukon is a supportive jurisdiction, as are all the provinces and the other two territories. Yes, as I tried to articulate, it is about time the country moved to address this particular area and challenge that we have faced for so long.
The Chair: Excellent. Without further ado, sir, I thank you. I will ask colleagues to stay for a brief in camera session.
(The committee continued in camera.)