Aboriginal Consultation Office Qs & As
Under The Government of Alberta’s Policy on Consultation with First Nations on Land and Resource Management, 2013 Alberta has created the Aboriginal Consultation Office (ACO), reporting to the Minister of Aboriginal Relations.
What will the ACO do?
On November 1, 2013, the ACO merged existing consultation and advisory services from Environment and Sustainable Resource Development’s (ESRD) Stewardship Branch with other services provided by Aboriginal Relations’ Consultation and Land Claims Division to strengthen Alberta’s role in managing aspects of the First Nations consultation process, including:
- Policy development and implementation
- Pre-consultation assessment
- Management and execution of the consultation process
- Assessment of consultation adequacy
- Consultation capacity building initiatives with First Nations and
- Collection and aggregated disclosure of consultation-related agreements between First Nations and industry.
Will this affect the application process?
While an internal re-organization is undertaken and until the ACO is fully established, applications will continue to be processed under The Government of Alberta’s First Nations Consultation Policy on Land Management and Resource Development, 2005 and the Guidelines adopted in 2006 and amended in 2007. During this period, First Nations and stakeholders are advised to continue working with their existing Government of Alberta consultation contacts at the same offices they have been using. Information related to consultation can continue to be accessed in current locations on the ESRD website.
How will the ACO work with the Alberta Energy Regulator?
The new Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) will subsume all regulatory functions currently under the ambit of the Energy Resources Conservation Board and ESRD in respect of oil, natural gas, oil sands and coal, in addition to all air, water, land, mine and facility authorizations. It will not determine Aboriginal consultation adequacy.
The ACO will be the authoritative body that will undertake many aspects of consultation, including: policy development and implementation; determining with whom to consult; managing and at times conducting the consultation process; assessing consultation adequacy; and undertaking all consultation capacity building initiatives related to First Nations consultation. The ACO will align with the AER and the regulatory ministries. The Government of Alberta is committed to ensuring First Nations’ Treaty rights and traditional uses are respected in all matters regarding land and natural resource management in the province.
Will the ACO be aligned with Canada and other jurisdictions?
Consultation may involve coordination across jurisdictions, departments, agencies, and processes. The ACO will enhance cross-government working relationships, leading to stronger and more coordinated consultation efforts. To serve this purpose, the ACO will work towards developing coordination processes with other provincial and territorial governments, Canada, or agencies of government, thereby ensuring increased information-sharing and greater cross-jurisdictional collaboration.
How will the ACO lead to an improved First Nations consultation process in Alberta?
When will the new Consultation Policy come into effect?
During the Consultation Policy Review Alberta heard that the Crown must play a more prominent role in consultation. In the past, consultation was managed and delegated by a number of provincial ministries. The ACO will centralize these operations in one office, increasing the coordination and consistency of decisions and policy application.
While the new First Nations Consultation Policy has been released, it will not be implemented until operational guidelines are developed to support the Policy, which will be informed by discussions with both First Nations and industry. The ACO will advise you in advance of changes to procedures in relation to First Nations consultation. Specifically, you will be advised when the 2013 Policy and attendant guidelines come into force.
When will the ACO become fully operational?
It is expected the ACO will be fully operational in spring 2014 as additional functions are phased in over the next several months. Engagement with First Nations and industry stakeholders will help to adapt and refine the ACO’s roles, functions and business processes to better serve both parties, as well as participating government ministries involved in the consultation process.