Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Banking, Trade and Commerce
Issue No. 9 - Evidence - October 26, 2016
OTTAWA, Wednesday, October 26, 2016
The Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce met this day at
4:19 p.m. to study and report on the development of a national corridor in
Canada as a means of enhancing and facilitating commerce and internal trade.
Senator David Tkachuk (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Welcome to the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade
and Commerce. My name is David Tkachuk, and I am the chair of the committee.
Today is our fourth meeting on the subject of our study on the development of
a national corridor in Canada as a means of enhancing and facilitating commerce
and internal trade.
We are pleased to welcome today the following witnesses. From the First
Nations Major Projects Coalition, we have Chief Joseph Bevan, Chair, from
Kitselas First Nation; Chief Corrina Leween, Member, from Cheslatta Carrier
Nation; Angel Ransom, Councillor and Member; and Del Nattrass, Economic and
Financial Advisor. And from the First Nations Financial Management Board, we
have Harold Calla, the executive chair and a member of Squamish First Nation.
Welcome to Ottawa. I hope you had a nice trip up and that you're enjoying the
cool weather. Who wants to start? Chief Bevan, please.
Chief Joseph Bevan, Chair, First Nations Major Projects Coalition:
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and good afternoon, honourable senators.
I am Chief Joseph Bevan of the Kitselas First Nation. I have the privilege to
serve as Chair of the First Nations Major Projects Coalition.
Before I move to the bulk of my presentation, our group would like to
acknowledge that we are conducting our business today on the traditional
territory of the Algonquin people.
I also want to thank the committee for inviting us here today to talk about
the work in support of the First Nation communities who are participating in the
business of the Major Projects Coalition.
With me today are two members of the coalition: Chief Corrina Leween from the
Cheslatta Carrier Nation and Councillor Angel Ransom from the Nak'azdli Whut'en.
Like my community of Kitselas, which is part of the Tsimshian Nation located
in B.C.'s north coast region, each of our respective territories is impacted by
major projects of some kind. Chief Leween and Councillor Ransom will offer their
own perspectives about how these impacts are being dealt with in their
Also with us today is Mr. Del Nattrass. As a former executive in the oil and
gas industry, Mr. Nattrass plays a role in the development of economic options
and financial perspectives to assist the coalition in assessing opportunities
for First Nations to participate in major projects. Mr. Nattrass has authored
some of the technical reports and is able to provide answers to questions that
are of a technical nature.
The national economy and financial well-being of Canadians is directly tied
to the development of our natural resources and their ability to reach export
markets. Nearly 1.8 million jobs are directly and indirectly related to the
natural resources of Canada, including 30,000 Aboriginal people.
If we were to look at a map of Canada and identify each proposed major
project from the west to the east, what would we find? It is that with each
project there are interests of First Nations people impacted by each project. If
we were to take a map and draw a line across Canada representing a corridor
running from the west to the east, we would find a right-of-way impacting the
interests of many First Nations.
At the same time, many of those First Nations communities are struggling with
systematic poverty, social issues and lower educational attainment, and many
lack the opportunity to find and be trained for meaningful employment.
Can we work together to create prosperity where there is poverty? How can the
business interests of First Nations impacted by major projects be accommodated
in a meaningful way? What does this look like? Can it involve First Nations
participating as equity owners in projects and involve us as part of the
management decisions? Is there an approach to environmental stewardship and the
mitigation of cumulative impacts caused by major project development that can be
established in a manner that deals with the interests that are unique to First
These are the areas of work that are under consideration by the coalition.
The coalition is not a project negotiation platform. We disseminate technical
information provided by experts to individual First Nations who normally would
not have access to this information.
The policy objectives and technical work of the coalition are designed to
inform project negotiations at a community level. Our work is designed to build
capacity in areas of critical need. The principles of free, prior and informed
consent require investments in capacity for First Nations. We need to know what
we're being asked to deal with, and we need to have the resources to properly
identify the opportunities and risks for our people so that we can make informed
The need for our communities to have ongoing access to this level of
technical capacity has been exemplified over the last 10 years where our
communities in northern B.C. were inundated with requests from project
proponents in the LNG sector. Proponents wanted answers and consent, while my
community members wanted to slow things down and do what we could to carefully
consider the economic benefits and environmental considerations of each project.
While market conditions have relieved some of the immediate pressure on our
communities, the capacity gaps still remain and must be addressed.
Kitselas First Nation is directly impacted by 10 LNG projects, including
pipelines. These include the Pacific Northwest LNG project and the Pacific Trail
pipeline project. In part, it was the Pacific Trail project that became the
catalyst for much of the work that the coalition is undertaking today.
The original business deal negotiated with 16 First Nations impacted the
Pacific Trail, including the options for First Nations to purchase a 30 per cent
equity stake in the project. First Nations were offered a true and meaningful
seat at the table. We were involved early in the process and treated with
respect at the table. The First Nations ultimately sold their option due to the
sale of the project to another proponent, and the pipeline has not been built.
That said, we ran into deeper issues before the sale. We had the option to
buy equity but could not get access to financing. We were told that it was not
possible or that the interest on the loan would be equal to the rate of return
Recognizing the need to address barriers to access capital, a group of First
Nations contacted the First Nations Financial Management Board and requested
their assistance. Harold Calla, the Financial Management Board's chair, who is
with us today and whom you will hear from, has been instrumental in providing
guidance on options that will enable First Nations to overcome the barriers that
have historically kept us out of participating in the economic mainstream of
The value of First Nations-led institutions, like the Financial Management
Board, that provide for First Nations communities cannot be understated.
The First Nations Fiscal Management Act, which provides three First Nations
institutions with their tools and purposes, including the First Nations Finance
Authority, of which I am the chair, needs to be given a serious look by
government as to the role that it can play in advancing the economic and social
interests of First Nations beyond where we are today.
The coalition is able to provide capacity support to 23 First Nations in
northern British Columbia because we were able to leverage the support, for the
purposes of First Nations Fiscal Management Act, to do this work.
I want to mention also that the work of the coalition has enjoyed great
support from Minister Bennett and her officials within the Lands and Economic
Development branch of the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.
The Prime Minister has made a central commitment on behalf of his government
to the advancement of a nation-to- nation relationship with First Nations. What
is that relationship going to look like? Will the improvements to the fiscal
relationship between First Nations and the Crown form part of this relationship?
In my opinion, they have to. We have to get to a place where First Nations are
enabled to participate in the economic mainstream by taking full advantage of
the economic opportunities that are occurring within our territories.
We have to start a serious conversation around the provision of government
loan guarantees, access to capital for First Nations, participation in major
projects. Canada has provided many forms of loan guarantees to advance a number
of initiatives in different sectors important to the well-being of the national
Perhaps the conversation around the establishment of a national
infrastructure bank should include parameters considering access to capital
requirements for First Nations looking to participate in large-scale
Recently the coalition submitted to the five big banks a straw man
infrastructure project with a request for indicative financing terms and
comment, and we are awaiting feedback. This request is based on an illustrative
opportunity for a group of First Nations to purchase $1 billion of equity
components of a $10 billion infrastructure project. If the response from the
banks to the straw man request is similar to the response of the banks to the
First Nations involved in the Pacific Trail pipeline project, then the need for
options to consider government loan guarantees will become clearer.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide you with these remarks. I will now
turn the floor over to Chief Corrina Leween to provide her comments.
Chief Corrina Leween, Member, First Nations Major Projects Coalition:
Good afternoon, honourable senators. I am Chief Corrina Leween of the Cheslatta
I want to thank the members of this committee for inviting us here to speak
about the work of the First Nations Major Projects Coalition. I sit as a member
of the coalition's steering committee, and I enjoy the support of the membership
of the Cheslatta Carrier Nation to do so.
My community is semi-remote and not located near a highway. This presents
another barrier for us to participate in the type of economic development that
is experienced by First Nations who are in a more urban setting.
Like many other First Nations, we have a high unemployment rate and
experience the social dilemmas that are attached to being in such a situation.
However, we are not without opportunity to better our lives and the lives of our
people through economic development. But we cannot do it by ourselves, and we
are utilizing the information and tools created by the work of the coalition to
help us get to a point of capacity where we are able to make more informed
business decisions. We do not have the financial resources or the expertise at
the community level to analyze potential economic opportunities at the same
level as the work being done by the coalition.
Cheslatta and other First Nations communities that are participating in this
initiative benefit from having a forum that is non-political where matters of
business related to major projects can be discussed amongst communities from
across B.C.'s northern corridor.
In the case of my community, the major project impacting us and the
neighbouring First Nations in the area is not a project tied to the use of
fossil fuels; ours is hydroelectric.
Known as the Kenney Dam water release facility, this project is estimated at
approximately $600 million. It would not only provide a substantial revenue
stream for the Cheslatta and neighbouring First Nations, it would also provide
significant environmental benefits by re-establishing a more natural water flow
to the Nechako River.
This project is also of social and historical importance to my people, the
Cheslatta. On April 21, 1952, the Cheslatta people were forced to evacuate from
their traditional territory due to the flooding of the Nechako waterway by the
provincial government to accommodate the corporate interests of the Aluminium
Company of Canada, which is today known as Rio Tinto.
The Cheslatta people have not fully recovered from this traumatic point in
our history. As a result, our population is dispersed over a large region, and
our people suffer from an identity that was lost with our eviction from our
original territorial home. Our culture has suffered and our language borders the
point of extinction, but it is the resilience of our people and the desire to
heal ourselves through economic and social self-reliance that drives our
Honourable senators, we want to be able to heal and correct our social
challenges as a community through economic development. In our view, the
capacity-building information and the tools being created by the work of the
Major Projects Coalition provide a huge benefit to this objective.
Cheslatta is but one example of one community in need to assess the capacity.
There are many others.
In order for First Nations to be in a position to give appropriate
consideration to their participation in major projects, the capacity field has
to be levelled. We must be able to discuss, negotiate and participate in
business with our partners as equals. This need is not project- or
industry-specific. This need is systemic.
Whether it is the development of a national corridor, a mine, a hydroelectric
facility or a pipeline, First Nations will require access to the necessary
information upon which we can make an informed business decision.
First Nations will also require the ability to participate fully as partners
in projects taking place in our traditional territories. The ability to arrive
at options designed to address these issues represents the value that the work
of the coalition brings to conversations taking place at the local, regional and
Cheslatta Carrier Nation is pleased to be part of this conversation. Thank
you very much for listening to me, and I will now turn the floor over to
Councillor Angel Ransom.
Angel Ransom, Councillor and Member, First Nations Major Projects
Coalition: Good afternoon, honourable senators. I'm Councillor Ransom from
the Nak'azdli Whut'en. My community of 2,000 members is located northwest of
Prince George, B.C., and is part of the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council.
In addition to my duties as councillor, I serve as a member of the steering
committee for the First Nations Major Project Coalition, where I am the lead of
the Environmental Stewardship Technical Team.
My background and education are in environmental planning, and I specialize
in First Nations planning. I am a registered professional planner and an
accredited member of the Canadian Institute of Planners. My colleagues have
talked about the economic work being considered by the Major Projects Coalition.
I will focus my comments on the environmental stewardship aspects of the
coalition's technical work.
When it comes to considering participation in proposed major projects, the
environmental impacts of such projects are a top-of-mind consideration for most
all First Nations. The balancing of economic and environmental interests is
complex and challenging. Matters of environmental stewardship and the mitigation
of project impacts are multi- faceted.
These interests vary widely based on geographical location and the
socio-cultural interests of a wide number of First Nations across the corridor,
as does the capacity level of communities along the corridor, which directly
impacts on their ability to consider project impacts according to Crown review
I can speak from experience on these matters. Prior to being elected to
council, I managed the Nak'azdli Whut'en LNG office. Nak'azdli is a community
impacted by five major LNG proposal developments. During my time in this role I
interfaced with both project proponents and government concerning the interests
of my community.
Matters of environmental stewardship concerning these project proposals were
carried out collaboratively with our neighbouring First Nations whenever
possible. These experiences have given me a first-hand perspective on the
importance of a common approach to environmental stewardship.
Identifying common approaches to environmental stewardship and developing a
framework for the mitigation of cumulative environmental impacts is a main focus
area for the Major Projects Coalition. Through the coalition's work, we now have
First Nations located in the north, west, central and northeast regions of
British Columbia sharing information and experiences regarding environmental
stewardship. Prior to the establishment of the coalition, these conversations
were not taking place to the same degree they are today. Our work in this regard
has identified a number of common issues for which we are developing options for
considerations as potential solutions.
Accessing critical expert information upon which informed decisions can be
made is paramount to the principles of free, prior and informed consent.
The existing Crown processes could not provide cumulative effects assessment
procedures. The current environmental assessment process focuses on
project-specific impacts and does not take into adequate consideration the
broader impacts of multiple projects occurring in one region.
First Nation governance must be given priority consideration. Currently, a
large disconnect exists between provincial and federal systems of governance and
indigenous perspectives on governance. These gaps may be bridged by developing a
true nation-to-nation approach concerning the environmental regulatory and
assessment processes. This includes collaboration, reconciliation,
co-management, adequate capacity and funding, and joint decision making.
Developing a true First Nation-led legally binding approach to environmental
assessments of major projects is not out of the question. Precedent for this
exists in the case of the Woodfibre LNG, a project located in Squamish, B.C.
The Squamish First Nation conducted their own environmental assessment of the
project and had the proponent agree to legally binding conditions. The proponent
also agreed to pay the costs associated with this assessment. A first of its
kind, a Squamish First Nation Environmental Certificate was issued to the
proponent upon completion of the review. This assessment also sets the precedent
of connecting a First Nation's environmental interest with its economic
interests by stipulating that the proponent would accommodate these interests as
part of the conditions attached to the environmental certificate.
The coalition's ability to act as a forum for First Nations to communicate
with one another concerning their shared interests is assisting with the
development of greater capacity for all of those involved. Government should be
paying close attention to these efforts. If a national corridor is to be
established, First Nations will require resources for environmental planning and
land use planning and the opportunity to be at the table when the corridor is
Solutions to First Nations' environmental concerns will need to be sought if
we are to avoid further delays due to conflict and court action. It is the
intention of the coalition that some of the outcomes of our work will provide
options that will contribute to a made-by-First Nations solution to the gaps
that exist within not only the current project assessment processes but also the
issue of environmental stewardship as a whole.
It is on this note that I would like to thank the honourable senators of this
committee for your time and for listening to my presentation. I would now like
to turn the floor over to Harold Calla. Thank you.
Harold Calla, Executive Chair, First Nations Financial Management Board:
Thank you. As was said, my name is Harold Calla. I'm a member of Squamish First
Nation in British Columbia. I am also the Executive Chair of the First Nations
Financial Management Board.
I want to thank the committee for agreeing to hear from me and the members of
the First Nations Major Projects Coalition.
The Senate, as a house of our Parliament and a core institution of governance
in Canada, has contributed greatly to the advancement of the objectives of the
First Nations Financial Management Board through your support of the passage of
the First Nations Fiscal Management Act in late 2005.
It is because the legislative tools and purposes of that act exist today that
three members of coalition are able to be here to inform you, the Senate, how
the tools and purposes are impacting those communities for the better.
It's my first time in Ottawa since I heard the tragic news about Jim
Prentice, and I want to acknowledge the non- partisan support of the late Jim
Prentice as opposition critic and Sue Barnes as parliamentary secretary. It was
their efforts that secured the passage of this bill in 2005, and I just felt
that we have to recognize that. We too often do not.
It was also due to the efforts of former Senator Gerry St. Germain, Senator
Jack Austin, Senator Nick Sibbeston and others in this place who made certain
the legislation became law and actually operates.
You should also appreciate that you continue to be a critical platform for
continued dialogue on solutions to address the gaps in the economic and social
circumstances of First Nations, and I thank you for that.
Through the efforts to establish initiatives such as the Major Projects
Coalition, we are beginning to see the benefit more broadly of the full
potential of the First Nations Fiscal Management Act's intended purposes.
However, it will be up to government to fully embrace the new and innovative
approaches being proposed by First Nation-led institutions like the First
Nations Financial Management Board before we see a meaningful impact.
If embraced, these impacts will have the ability to advance the interests of
both First Nation and non-First Nation Canadians and start down a path that can
see First Nations prosper.
In my view, we are here today to suggest potential ways to move forward, to
necessarily revitalize and advance Canada's natural resource sector, which is a
major driver of the Canadian economy. We are here to say that such
revitalization must include the full participation of First Nations to be
If Canada is serious about developing a nation-to-nation relationship,
implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada' recommendations
and being guided by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
Peoples, we have to start by acknowledging that the existing approaches in the
relationship have failed, and they failed all Canadians.
We need to invest in developing First Nation economies. The rationale here is
no different from the policy perspective that was made in the decision to invest
In terms of major projects and First Nation interests to participate in them,
will Canada be prepared to make the investments necessary to see First Nations
become full partners in the mainstream of Canada's economy?
One of the things we need to appreciate when we consider all matters related
to Aboriginal people is the gap that is often referred to: sixty-third versus
third, the circumstances in our community.
The amount of investment that's required will never be met by transfer
payments. It has to include initiatives that create economic development
As I continue to say, we can't solve the housing problem with welfare and
shelter allowances. We need to be able to create viable economies for our
communities, and the oil and gas and natural resource sectors provide the
greatest opportunity for that to happen in a way that can be meaningful to First
Nation communities. This is a generational opportunity and one that I don't
think can be ignored.
You've heard the Major Projects Coalition highlight the challenges that exist
within their respective communities to become full partners in the economic and
social fabric of Canada. These challenges are not isolated to northern British
Columbia. The challenges are similar in nature within First Nation communities
across the country where resource development is contemplated.
Court rulings have reinforced the duty to consult and accommodate First
Nation interests. The duty to consult becomes greater in regions like British
Columbia and other parts of Canada where treaties do not exist.
What does this mean for the development of large-scale major projects or the
development of a national corridor to facilitate trade or investment? It means
that if Canada is to avoid further delays to the growth of our national economic
objectives, then we must have a policy framework in place that enables and
directs the central agencies of government to respond to the interests of First
Nations, as is being suggested by the Supreme Court of Canada.
The current mandates of central agencies are not designed to do this. We must
re-evaluate the fiscal relationship between First Nations and the Crown. Where
necessary, we must be willing to provide First Nations with the ability to
access the capital necessary to become equity partners in the projects that are
proposed in their traditional territories.
While some of these policy objectives will take time to complete, there are
immediate steps that can be taken to advance the change needed to support the
growth in the Canadian economy. Strategic investments and capacity development
are absolutely necessary before business opportunities can really be considered
by First Nations themselves.
I think that there is a role to play, and the First Nations Fiscal Management
Act has proven it, in continuing to look at where we can develop First
Nations-led institutions. Let us create our own futures.
The Financial Management Board has benefited from the opportunity to dialogue
with Minister Bennett and her staff about some of these issues, and we enjoyed
her support for the objectives of our work. But there is always a lot more to be
Canada should also look at the evolving and emerging institutions as bodies
that have the ability to provide innovative recommendations on policy approaches
that come directly from First Nations and are not being filtered through the
central agency process.
Current opportunity for this kind of input is in the government's priority to
develop an infrastructure bank. The government has made a commitment to grow the
economy by making long-term investments in infrastructure. Budget 2016 showed a
strong commitment to First Nations, with investment in housing and waste water.
Still, First Nations face a disproportionate infrastructure gap compared with
the rest of Canada. It is estimated that the total infrastructure gap is around
$30 billion, and this is why it is critical that we move into the economic
development realm to address the issues.
Mostly due to the limits of the Indian Act, the First Nations have not had
the ability to access traditional sources of capital, either as public-private
partnership-style investments or traditional loans, to finance infrastructure
costs. They have to go cap-in-hand to the Department of Indigenous and Northern
This is just starting to change due to the ability of a number of First
Nations who are participating in the services of the First Nations Financial
Management Board and the borrowing pool administered by the First Nations
Finance Authority. The central role of the Financial Management Board is to
certify that the financial management practices of participating First Nations
are what the market requires in order for these communities to participate in a
pooled borrowing environment and to benefit from FNFA debenture issues. To date,
$250 million of capital has been secured at very low interest rates of less than
3 per cent.
As was mentioned earlier, the government has promised $120 billion in
infrastructure spending over the next decade and is giving consideration to a
large, new infrastructure bank. These investments in the creation of the bank
are important, as the bank will increase the overall infrastructure investment,
leading to jobs and growth, and will attract private capital and transfer some
Given that the infrastructure gap for indigenous communities is so great, the
government should consider parameters for an indigenous secretariat within the
infrastructure bank and should set aside a portion of the funding for the bank
for First Nations equity participation in major projects.
While there are numerous issues requiring attention, we have to start
somewhere. The fiscal empowerment of First Nations should be a key area of
focus. We put at risk our national economy by not taking steps and making the
necessary investments so that First Nations can be in a position to partner and
benefit from the economic activity taking place within their traditional
We cannot afford to be back at this table 10 years from now saying, "Should
we have done something?'' Often in these conversations, we look at the costs of
providing some support, but I would invite you to look at the cost of doing
nothing. If these projects are not developed, what does it mean to the tax
revenue streams of Canada and the provinces? What does it mean to the cost of
the social net by not having these jobs? We have to start looking much beyond
just the fact that there is a number on a balance sheet. I think the cost is too
great to not act now.
In closing, let me reiterate that we are to suggest possible solutions to
systemic barriers facing First Nations in their relationship with Canada. There
is a great opportunity for the First Nations-led institutions under the First
Nations Fiscal Management Act and through the technical work of the Major
Projects Coalition to collaborate with government to arrive at concrete policy
solutions that advance the economic and social interests of First Nations and
I think the other matter that really needs to be recognized, and it's because
we are so ingrained in this Indian Act band system, is that on many occasions we
fail to realize there are respected, functioning traditional First Nation
governments. They need to be engaged in seeking the free, prior and informed
consent because in many cases they are the government within that First Nation
community that has the authority to grant it, not the Indian Act band.
I think we are at a critical time, obviously. We have the benefit of a
commodity market downturn, I suppose — can I characterize it as that? — because
we now have time to get ourselves organized for the next boom. But we won't be
organized if we don't address some of these key, fundamental issues.
First Nations in the North did talk about the concept of a corridor. And, in
fact, part of what the coalition does is look at the impacts of where these
projects are going to be. But what First Nations are more concerned about is
this: What are the cumulative impacts on their traditional lifestyles, their
resources and their lands? What are we going to get from it as Aboriginal
people? I always remember the late George Watts, a leader from Vancouver Island,
used to say to me, "Harold, I just want a piece of the treaties that are driving
by my front door.''
And there are things like resource royalty sharing. What kind of fiscal
framework are we going to create in this nation-to-nation relationship, and how
does major resource development fit into that plan? These are obviously very
complex issues, and there is no real, simple solution, but sometimes we have to
be prepared to take some risk and understand the risks that we are taking but be
prepared to take them, and start to move forward. We can't wait for perfection,
and we also can't wait for everybody in the world to be on side.
The Chair: Thank you very much. I would like to say, witnesses, that
when we undertook to have a look at the idea of a northern corridor across the
country, one of the important things that we thought would be part of our study
would be how we would organize ourselves knowing that we have to deal with the
First Nations as we consider the corridor. So your participation here is at an
excellent time, and we are extremely glad that you were able to take the time to
come and present to us. I think I speak on behalf of all of our members.
I will start the questions with Senator Wallin.
Senator Wallin: Thank you, and thank you for your presentations today.
We are here, as Senator Tkachuk said, to really look at the prospect of a
national corridor, whether it's mid or northern. So I guess I want to start with
that one. I liked your optimism and your point here, Mr. Calla, which is that
you want to take advantage of the downturn so that we can be ready for the boom.
I really hope you're right. But just on a very basic point, do you like and do
you agree with the concept of a national corridor?
Mr. Calla: I think that there needs to be a corridor, and I think a
national corridor does make sense.
I think there are some issues related to a national corridor that we have not
yet touched on, and it goes to the very heart of the fiscal financing
relationship between First Nations and the Government of Canada.
If I'm in an area where there is currently a project but where the corridor
is not going to be, and I lose my opportunity, what does that mean? I think
there are some issues. I think we do not want to find a spaghetti of corridors
running through all our traditional territories. I think most people acknowledge
that. The challenge we face on the West Coast on many of these issues is what
the cumulative environmental impacts are. This year, if you're from the West
Coast and you went fishing, there weren't many. There was this big blob in the
Pacific Ocean for most of it.
How do we deal with those issues? Yes, I think people want to see something
because they know oil and gas is going to move somewhere.
Senator Wallin: I'd like to hear from others, if we could, on this.
One of our first witness panels in this study was two academics who are looking
for money from somewhere — the government, anywhere — to try and fund a project
to even look at the viability of what will no doubt be a multi-billion-dollar
project on some level. What you folks have put on the table today —
government-guaranteed access to capital infrastructure spending, duty to
consult, mitigation of cumulative effects, assessment — these are huge dollar
signs. At this point we don't even have the money to fund the study by two
academics in Calgary to see whether we can even get it started.
I understand the issues, but are we putting up so many roadblocks — financial
roadblocks — that we can't even get to the first discussion of this? Whoever
wants to comment, please.
Mr. Calla: I think we're trying to tell you what would be required to
achieve it. There's a technical piece of work, there's a political piece of
work, and there's an environmental piece of work, and I think how you choose to
do those, in what steps, is a matter for consideration. But you will not get to
First Nation acceptance of any kind of a corridor unless you deal with the
issues that we put forward to you today.
Mr. Bevan: In our territory, we had a criss-cross of some 10
proponents all going throughout our territory in two different directions. We
thought, "Why don't you hold one corridor and put those pipelines through?'' I
think if it had been done that way, it wouldn't have impacted the whole
territory. It would have been two or three proponents going through that one
area of a corridor, and it would have been a lot more acceptable than the way we
saw them going at it.
I saw some of the material that they had given my resource crew to review,
and thank God —
Senator Wallin: I'm sorry, but by "they'' you mean particular
Mr. Bevan: Proponents, some of the 10 LNG proponents that were coming
through my territory, or proposed to come through my territory.
There was a lot of information to disseminate, and thank God we had the
capacity to review it. We notice a lot of other First Nations don't have that
capacity, and they didn't understand. We had to start at the basic level with
our own people and educate them on what LNG is. LNG 101, 201, 301. We had one
third support when we first started. By the time we were done, we had two thirds
support, which gave us our mandate to negotiate with LNG proponents.
All it took was some basic education, some really high-level stuff. We were
delving in deep. We were saying, "Here is what this means.'' When we did that,
like I said, we noticed a dramatic increase in the support for these projects,
and they didn't see them as intrusive.
Senator Wallin: That's interesting.
Ms. Leween: Just from a grassroots perspective and from a community
that is not exactly in the pipeline area, in order for us to support or to
provide any kind of environmental impacts to any of the territories that we live
on, we need to gather our First Nations back home and come together and provide
that background information of their territories. Our coalition is trying to
gather all that information together so that we can support each other or we can
provide information for a table such as this so we can move forward.
To me, at the grassroots level, it's about gathering all that information so
that we can actually support each other.
Senator Campbell: I'd like to apologize for my being late today. I'd
like to hire both your organizations to figure out how to build a corridor
between Parliament Hill and here during rush hour. And I will raise the money
To all of my colleagues here, this is an example of why B.C. leads in First
Nations governance, First Nations vision and First Nations opportunities. These
two groups right here are the gold standards, as far as I'm concerned, for
Canada and for a new relationship that I've been hearing about for virtually all
of my life, certainly when I was in Vancouver.
With regard to the corridor, I was thinking about this the other night. We
always talk about consent and sharing information, and I thought if the Squamish
First Nation was a business and I wanted to go across your land to do something,
there would be no question of the negotiations that would go on and the sharing
of information. Why do we have such a difficult time doing that between
governments, between the First Nations government and the Canadian government,
and especially on something that I believe is probably the most important
infrastructure project since the railway went across Canada? Why do we have such
Mr. Calla: Senator, thank you for the question. I think until recently
it's because Canada never accepted the responsibility to engage. Instead it was
put upon proponents.
About four years ago I was trying to cross the country with the Public Policy
Forum to engage in conversations across the country on First Nation
participation and major project development, and there's a report that I'm sure
you've seen. One of the outcomes of that was industry saying to government,
"You're putting this off on us? We think it's your responsibility.''
Part of what we're proposing with this initiative would allow Canada to
support First Nations equity participation, fulfil that duty, and then advance
these things in a way that meets First Nations interest.
There's no place to start the conversation, and the conversation has to start
with Canada taking a leadership role, in my view.
Senator Campbell: I accept that. But also we have industry come before
us, and sometimes it's a cop-out to me. Industry says, "You're not doing this,''
and I refer to other business deals where, business to business, they got the
I agree that it's Canada's responsibility, but it's also industry's
responsibility to realize that the bottom line is what the First Nations want.
If you do not address the First Nations issues, this corridor is dead. That's
the position that I think we have to come to.
So how do we assist the finance group and the coalition in moving across
Chief, you were right. If five companies come and they all want to build in a
different spot on my land, "Sorry, this is not going to go; this isn't a
Would you agree that this is one of the difficulties we have? We take a look
at the pipeline in British Columbia and it's, "No, no, no, no,'' and it's, "Oh,
you are doing it.'' No, no, and we haven't got that out that, in fact, it's way
bigger than that. It's industry; it's governments.
How do we change that so that we can start? Without support, without a
partnership, it will go nowhere, and we're wasting our time here. How do we go
Mr. Bevan: I would like to see some more resources put towards
capacity development for some of those First Nations who don't understand. Of
course, you're talking to the willing here, so I have no issues with it because
I've researched it. I have had my own people working on it and scientifically
have proven that this is a good decision for us. What we did with our people is
we stopped making it an emotional decision and made it more of a scientific
decision by giving them that education, and it changed everything.
I tried to tell other First Nations that you can't just walk away; you have
to engage. You have to go and talk to them and see what they're talking about,
but a lot of them don't understand. They don't have the understanding that we
have and sometimes don't have good negotiators at their table, on their side, so
they're negotiating on their own.
I think if we put more capacity funding towards helping these nations out, we
would probably get a bit more acceptance. I'm not saying all of them, but that
last 10 per cent would probably come a little easier had we had a little more
capacity funding added instead of throwing proponents at them and saying, "Here
are four big binders of information; go work it out on your own territory.'' As
I said, that would just confuse them even more. We had the capacity to go
Mr. Calla: I think the biggest challenge we have faced to this point
is that First Nations have had to react to proposals. We have not been organized
to be able to be proactive, and you're playing in the big leagues here. There
are six, eight or ten real oil companies on earth, so we're playing in the big
I think that in order to function at that level, we need to have the
expertise of people like Delbert Nattrass. In the oil and gas conversations in
British Columbia, no one was talking about the value chain of these projects,
what they meant and what you should be looking for. How can smaller communities,
some of whom may be in financial difficulty at home and don't even have an
accountant, afford an expert like Delbert Nattrass?
So the vehicle has to be provided, and that's what the coalition did,
provided a vehicle for this kind of information to be gathered to determine what
you are being asked to make a decision on. What's in it for you? What are the
risks and impacts, those kinds of things?
First Nations to this point have often been asked to pick a winner and a
loser before there's even a final investment decision. Many of the agreements
that are signed have exclusivity arrangements. I've always felt that if we do
our due diligence and get the capacity to do our due diligence, we put out a
Ms. Ransom: I wanted to add that when you're in a situation such as my
community of Nak'azdli Whut'en and you have one project and then two, and then
three, four and five all happening concurrently and you request to have it
slowed down a little bit because we're feeling we're making decisions under
duress and lacking capacity and we're expected to review 28,000 pages of
documentation within 30 days and provide an informed understanding of that,
quite often you're going to end up in the position where communities don't have
the capacity or understanding of what is being presented, and therefore they
back out. We've always said that we need to do this jointly, to do the
preplanning of a project and not do them all at once.
I think involving First Nations in the preplanning of any project, such as
the identification of location and working in maybe a corridor approach with
other nations that would like to take that approach, would be very helpful.
That's all I have to say at this time. Thank you.
The Chair: Before we go on to the next question, how many First
Nations are there in the coalition?
Ms. Ransom: There are 23.
The Chair: All northern B.C.?
Ms. Ransom: Yes.
Senator Campbell: Thank you for coming. You honour me from British
Columbia. You're doing a fantastic job.
Senator Day: I feel exactly the same as my colleague Senator Campbell.
I'm quite excited to hear what you're doing and what you've had to say here
today. Coming from New Brunswick, I haven't seen or heard this kind of
You talk, first of all, about the coalition. Chief Leween, the exchange of
information is a critical part of all this so that you can work together, but
developing a bargaining position and the strength of bargaining together is
another very important part of this coalition that I find very exciting with
what you're doing. So thank you very much for being here and helping us in that
I'm looking at Chief Bevan's remarks. You said, "How can the business
interests of the First Nation impacted by major projects be accommodated in a
meaningful way?'' Those are wonderful words, and I think you should continue to
talk that way. You want to be equity owners in the project. Again, to me, that
is absolutely the future.
You talk about financing and your need for funds and that the transfer
payments just aren't enough to allow you to do what you want to do. Maybe it was
Mr. Calla who was talking about the First Nations Financial Management Board and
the First Nations Fiscal Management Act. Is that funded, and if so, funded by
whom? How do you access those funds?
Mr. Bevan: Speaking to our business interests, when the Pacific Trail
pipeline project went through and we had an opportunity to get a direct award
from them and cleared a right-of-way, my development corporation over a two-and-
a-half-year time period made close to $50 million just clearing a right-of-way,
hired every able-bodied person in the whole reserve and changed the attitudes of
about 10 or 20 people who said, "Wow, I could work.'' It changed their self-
esteem. They decided they wanted to go back to school after this because they
wanted to work even harder and longer in this industry.
Then I had some of the elders saying, "We are negotiating a treaty, the land
and cash offer was $24 million and we just made close to $50 million in two and
a half years. Oh, my God. Why am I going for a treaty? Why don't I just go and
work for it?'' That's why, when we started off, we started thinking, "Wow, this
could be a game changer if we get more of these projects going on.''
Of course, I have a finance background, and that's why I know the numbers
very well. We took a governance approach to all of these companies that were
coming at us, all 10 of them. We developed a stewardship policy, basically a
good land-use decision. Based on that, we started parallel negotiations. You
call them IBAs; we call them impact management and benefit agreements, because
we manage the project through these agreements, starting off with, of course,
the environment, training and education for our people, business procurement,
and lastly, benefits for the whole community.
I know the value of these projects. I've seen it myself. Of course we want
one of these projects. We want an FID. There are more nations that are changing
the way they do business because they realize that transfer payments alone are
not going to change anything. We have to work for it. When you work for it, you
appreciate it more and you want more of it. You change the society of your
nation. You change the way it thinks. Instead of sitting back waiting for my
cheque to come in, you're going to go out and grab it, take it and chase it.
That was the attitude change that we saw, and that was just one small project.
That was just 110 kilometres of right-of-way clearing.
Then with our neighbours, the Haisla Nation, we started working together on
projects, and that was something unheard of because we seem to butt heads a lot.
It's like the pie syndrome; we're all chasing the same piece of pie and there's
only so much of it to go around. I said, "If we work together we could take the
whole pie, so let's stop fighting with one another.''
The Chair: Wise words.
Mr. Calla: I want to respond to the second question. You've got the
chairs of the First Nations Financial Management Board and the First Nations
Finance Authority here, and the legislation created a pool borrowing environment
in which First Nations came together — I guess I could describe it like a credit
union — and they support one another. We constructed through the legislation a
framework for pool borrowing that was reviewed by rating agencies and investment
banks, and the First Nations Finance Authority was granted a single A credit
rating on the first issue because of the controlled framework that we have.
That is supported by Canada, the institutions are funded by Canada, and we
provide the organizational capacity development that's required. Much of what is
needed to participate, even in economic development and financing, is to develop
the management capacity which many small communities don't do. We're doing some
good work with the department right now through the minister, and how do you
de-aggregate this, much like we're doing with the coalition, to create this
capacity within First Nation communities.
But we've created the structure, and we think Canada should use that
structure. You've invested in the development of these institutions, we've
proven that they are working, and we think that major projects provide yet
another opportunity to support these institutions in helping First Nations
develop their organizational capacity.
We have a great relationship with the Aboriginal financial officers of Canada
who develop individual capacity developments, so we get trained people working
in those communities.
So we're working on it. It's a work-in-progress; it's going to improve. It
took us a couple hundred years to get to where we are today. It's going to take
us a few years to get to a different place, but we're starting, and it's been
thanks to the non-partisan part of the work that we've been able to do in
Ottawa. You've all been very supportive.
Senator Day: It is a very specific question. A corridor for
transmission lines or a road is going to require rights-of- way, and those
rights-of-way are going to go over your traditional territories. Is there
anything in the Indian Act or any other legislation that prevents you from
giving up a right-of-way for the corridor? Because a right-of-way is going to
have to be acquired. If you can give this right-of-way, is that not worth quite
a bit of money that you could use to invest in the project, to get in the equity
Mr. Bevan: Well, you have section 35 of your Aboriginal rights. If
you're going to be impacting somebody through a corridor, I don't think the
Indian Act would come into effect there. I think it's section 35 rights that
most people are fighting for when it comes to that. So that's kind of the issue
there. It's not really the Indian Act per se.
Mr. Calla: I don't think you need to have First Nations surrender the
land into a fee simple status. What you're looking for is tenure, and I think
those arrangements can be struck in a way that gives industry and government the
confidence that the right-of-way will be there. The Squamish Nation has had a
sewage treatment plant on its lands for about 60 years for Metro Vancouver. It's
functioned on rights-of-way that are in effect reserve lands, and those
arrangements have worked out favourably.
So it doesn't need to be given up. Does everybody want fee simple land?
Absolutely. But sometimes you don't always get what you want.
Senator Tannas: Thank you all for being here. I'm privileged to be on
the Aboriginal Affairs Committee, so I have crossed paths with some or all of
you. I'm so thrilled that other colleagues are getting a chance here to
experience the expertise. The fact that we have thought leaders and action
leaders for all of Canada here is a real honour.
What we've learned so far in the few meetings that we've had is that we're
really in on the ground floor of this thing. There have been a couple of books,
a professor and a retired general who came up with this idea 50 years ago, and
that's it. Nothing has been done.
So we're in an unusual spot, where we are really at the beginning of the
molecules just starting to move. So that in and of itself is I think exciting to
us, and I hope it will engage your minds as well.
The idea of this corridor with transmission for electricity, from wonderful
dams, hydroelectric that can be done, pipelines, fibre optics, highway and
railway, all those kinds of things, to me, speaks to the economic development
opportunities that go along there.
If you look at the Canadian Pacific Railway and all the towns and industry
that have sprung up along that railway, we're now talking about a new
opportunity for the next 200 years that could spin off that. And it's in Indian
country, if you will.
That's wonderful. I think it's a neat opportunity. So we've got these two
professors who have a pretty good suggestion or proposal as to where to go next
with this. There still needs to be some work at the academic level to kind of
bring this forward. I'd be very surprised if we didn't recommend that somebody
fund the next level of viability study.
I'd be interested to know your thoughts as to whether we should be
recommending that that study be expanded and maybe propose a framework for
discussion and thought as to how First Nations will achieve or could achieve an
economic benefit from, or even, frankly, economic control of, this corridor in
some way, or economic participation, however you want to put it. I mean, that
thinking needs to be going on.
I worry about the history of this. It has been raised twice before and kind
of collapsed under the sheer weight of someone imagining how hard it will be to
get it done. Imagine in today's environment, with the increased attention to
environmental concerns and the potential attempts to negotiate on a single First
Nation by First Nation basis all the way across the country. It will collapse
again very quickly. Do you think we should try to tackle this as well in the
study, at the very early stages of viability, and if so, could you give us some
suggestions about how, or who should participate in that?
Mr. Bevan: Definitely some of the First Nations who are early to sign
on to these projects, who have negotiated and have signed on and said, "Look,
I've gone through the information and this is what I see. I have the tools to
make that decision. But my neighbour here doesn't have the capacity that I do.''
So there again if they had a tool box of information that just said that it's a
mining project that affects six First Nations all within the vicinity, and you
kind of got them together, you're going to have some that say yes and some that
say no, but you need to find out what's important to them.
Some will say, "We still live off the land.'' Some will say, "We do and we
don't.'' I think we need to find out what's important. Is it jobs that are
important? Because we didn't know at first until we put everyone to work, and
then we saw the change. Like I said, the guy has a steady paycheque now. He's
done it for two and a half years, and now it just built up his self-esteem. He's
got everything he wants. Now that he has everything he wants in his house, it's
time to say, "How do I continue on with that? Well, I think I need to get
further education and a job and work at this full-time because I like the work
and I like the steady paycheque.''
You have to change the attitudes, and sometimes that takes a bit of work, and
sometimes it's all self-driven. It's up to that individual person. We say to our
people, "Look, we'll help bring the opportunity, but it's up to you to take
That's what worked for Kitselas, anyway. As for some of the other nations,
sometimes it's tough to get them to work together because we have different
ideas on how to move things forward for our nations. I think if we had that tool
box of information sitting there waiting for us, such as what we're trying to
develop with the coalition, then I think it would go a lot smoother when they
come to us and say, "Hey, Joe, there is a big mine that wants to start up in my
territory. What should I be watching for? What are some of the issues with the
environment that would hamper my decision? Where should I be concerned?''
I think if we had that information readily available, then they would not be
so worried. Right now you are asking them to make a decision that they have
never had to make before. It will affect generations, and we have never had to
make those decisions. Usually they are kind of imposed on you, and that's it,
moving right along, thank you very much. Now we need to change those, and I
think it's changing those attitudes.
It's really funny, but thinking of some of the people we've seen at the
beginning of this, one thing sticks out and I'm going to use it because Jim
Prentice said it. He said, "It's not what is right, and it's not what you
deserve; it's what you negotiate. At the end of the day, that is what you get.''
I love those words and I stick with those every day and say, "Yeah, he's
right. It's what we negotiate at the end of the day.''
Mr. Calla: You asked the question: Do you deal with these issues up
front? I think the answer is yes. If you're going to be recommending that
somebody undertake some work, I think the terms of reference of what's involved
in it have to involve an engagement with First Nations at the very beginning. If
you come forward with a volume report and say, "Here it is,'' it will not get
standing in First Nations communities.
As Chief Bevan said, some people will not support any of this, and there are
some who do. Not everybody supported the First Nations Fiscal Management Act,
and we came to a conclusion in the development of that legislation that there
would be scheduling. There was some great concern over how many would actually
become part of the First Nations Fiscal Management Act, and you should know
there are now over 205 or so First Nations across Canada who asked to be
scheduled to the act, and we anticipate that will grow over the next five years.
Hopefully, one day, everyone might.
A lot of it has come as a consequence, as Joe has said, of there being
economic opportunity that people never saw before. We don't need to become
better managers of poverty. We do that pretty well. Give us a shot at wealth.
Senator Tannas: If we send off a couple of academics to study this,
who should they consult to try and get to the next level? Is there a resource?
Who do you think? You don't have to tell us today, but if you could give any
suggestions to the clerk after giving it some thought, can we point them in your
Mr. Calla: You can point them in the coalition's direction, because I
think the coalition needs to grow to become something that establishes broader
Senator Tannas: That's your ambition and your mandate?
Mr. Calla: Yes.
Senator Tannas: Great.
Senator Ringuette: This certainly is impressive. I understand that you
want to build on this capacity fund. You have managed to establish trust in your
analysis of the different projects. You have established trust within the First
Nations community, and you have also established, and will be establishing more,
recognized experts in this coalition, so this is really great.
You are proposing a framework option to facilitate a government loan
guarantee to First Nations for equity investment in proposed large-scale
projects. Have you looked at other potential financial tools, for instance, a
mutual trust, some kind of venture capital setup or even a dollar match to set
up this pool in addition to the bond? There are probably some limits with regard
to the cash that you can acquire through the bond. Have you looked at other
financial scenarios to say, "This is what we want?''
Mr. Calla: Thank you for the question. Actually, that was a point that
Yes, we have looked at them. One of the things to appreciate is that the
scale of these projects now has outstripped any cumulative balance sheet of a
group of First Nations and most corporations in this country. One of these major
projects that was, I think, the size of the proposed Shell project was a $37
billion to $40 billion project. The equity thresholds that have been established
in the Pacific Trail pipeline project and Mackenzie Valley were 30 per cent and
33.3 per cent.
I think that the sheer scale of what is required is problematic. Venture
capital could work, but as Joe said, when they went to the markets to look for
$300 million for the Pacific Trail, the capital markets wanted the
rate-regulated return of 11.25 per cent, so there was nothing left for them.
We could have a whole discussion with Del Nattrass on the risk and all the
rest of it, but we think we've developed an approach, through the First Nations
Fiscal Management Act, in having intercept and trust accounts, that minimized
the risk. We are not suggesting that Canada will be in a position where every
project that comes forward will be eligible for a federal loan guarantee. I
don't know that that would ever be the case. Policy work would be required on
the part of the federal government to establish the criteria for a federal loan
We've shared some models with, I think, the Aboriginal Peoples Committee. For
example, in the United Kingdom in 2008, when they needed to stimulate their
economy, through legislation they established a £50 billion trust for loan
guarantees for infrastructure development. There are many ways and means to
It can also be accomplished by the Government of Canada making something on
its balance sheet. I know that some of you may know that I served on the board
of CMHC for six years. I was on the board during the 2008 crisis and saw the
support that came from CMHC in supporting the banking community by buying back
insured mortgages in a reverse auction.
Canada has an ability to do it. I'm not saying it's not without risk, but the
biggest benefit that comes from the approach that we're considering is the cost
of borrowing. In the case of the Pacific Trail, the First Nations Finance
Authority could have loaned them that money at around 3 per cent, instead of
11.25 per cent. What Canada brings to the table is the ability to get that cheap
money and to make that benefit.
So a question back to you, in response to this, is how does Canada fulfill
its duty? Does Canada want to take some calculated risk on supporting equity
acquisition? Or do we not want to do that and have the results that Chief Joe
spoke about at a community level and see an increase in the cost of the social
net and the tragedies that are occurring in our communities on a daily basis?
Sometimes it's more than just clinical. I'm an accountant, so it's hard for
me to even say this, but it's not just a spreadsheet process.
Senator Ringuette: In reality, you seem to be advocating for two
different financial tools: one financial tool for large- scale projects — that
would be a one-on-one situation in negotiating with the federal government — and
then another tool for smaller-scale investment.
Mr. Calla: We have some tools now with the First Nations Finance
Authority. It's there, but I think there is a case to be made for what is a
major project, and what is a major impact. We should move away from the concept
of project to what will have a major impact.
If you look at Chief Leween's project and how it would support a gold mine
not far from there by supplying it with power, all of a sudden that project is
upwards of $1 billion to $1.5 billion. That can be replicated right across the
country in many First Nation communities who are not going to be impacted. So I
think there is a broader discussion.
Senator Ringuette: For instance, your hydro project that was just
mentioned, that would come under the existing flow of financing available?
Mr. Calla: It couldn't.
Senator Ringuette: It couldn't?
Mr. Calla: Those projects need to be bundled.
The Chair: Provinces back municipalities all the time.
Mr. Calla: Not in British Columbia.
The Chair: It does in our province. They back municipalities to get
them lower interest rates.
Mr. Calla: It does, but in British Columbia, they wouldn't do it. In
British Columbia, the Municipal Finance Authority of British Columbia has a AAA
credit rating and never had a failure in its 40 or 50 years of existence. It's
what we modelled the regime of the First Nations Fiscal Management Act after.
Senator Smith: I just wanted to follow up on Senator Tannas's point.
We had two academics that came and made a presentation. Before they came, we
did some research and found out there was a book written in 1967 on a project
that was presented to Pierre Elliott Trudeau, which was turned down, with this
concept of a mid-Canada. It went between the fiftieth and sixtieth parallels
across the country. It started in Labrador, through the Ring of Fire in northern
Ontario, Manitoba, and then up through Saskatchewan and Alberta, up into the
Mackenzie Valley and then split off around Prince Rupert.
We have people who say, "We have a concept,'' and then we brought in other
people who have similar concepts and everyone studied this.
Are you folks aware of this particular concept development that has taken
Mr. Bevan: I've heard of it myself, yes.
What I was going to suggest was that perhaps we start looking at bands that
are not in agreement and ask, what it would take?
Senator Smith: My point, if I could just lead into it through Senator
Tannas's point, is here we have a concept. The concept will cost money because
they have to do mapping and check the lands for what type of engineering would
have to take place. This is a 7,000-mile corridor that starts in one end of
country and ends in the other.
Conceptually, the next step is it would be helpful, before a study took
place, that we would have awareness amongst all the nations.
My understanding is there are 640 nations across the country. The next
question that comes to mind is how do we get people to understand this so that
at least they would be interested in participating to see what the outcome of
this report plan would be? Because the report plan would give a rough estimate
of the cost of putting in rail, putting in a pipeline and transmission lines,
the timing, climate change, the lands that you will cross and the construction.
If there was a willingness to understand the concept and to participate in
making sure that there was a sharing of information so that you folks would
understand exactly what this is all about, would that be a helpful tool to have
which could lead into a stepped, preplanned and planning process with
checkpoints along the way that would bring in First Nations, and not only
educate and develop a relationship but a true understanding of what the pros and
cons are so that you would have a balanced look at this project and be an active
participant? Do you see where I'm coming from?
These guys said to us, "We have this concept. We need $800,000 to $1 million
to do it.'' The issue is how to get money for them.
I would assume one of the big issues would be if we could get you folks
involved at the beginning, because this is more than singular or multiple
projects on the lands that you folks influence or control. We are talking about
a national corridor, which is a right-of-way, which allows the set-up, and then
after that you are going to get the existing people.
How do I look into that particular network across the country? If we had
informed folks who would say, "Hey, there is some interest here,'' how do we
develop that interest for you folks to be participants in the development of
Ms. Ransom: I will make a comment. I have been sitting here and
thinking about this the whole time.
First, we don't want to be an active participant; we want joint decision
making — I will put that out there — an involvement in such a concept.
My thoughts on how to even start a conversation is by maybe putting the idea
out there. At least I have heard this back home.
The benefits of concentrating development into one corridor makes sense,
because this approach not only contributes to minimalizing environmental and
cumulative impacts but also in turn benefits First Nations across the country
because it allows First Nations to continue conducting our Aboriginal practices
and increase the management protection and governance of our territories
throughout our territories rather than having to react to 100 different projects
across. If we can concentrate it, we can continue doing our normal Aboriginal
practices as we would throughout our territory.
Just simple food for thought.
The Chair: That's pretty good.
Senator Smith: Would you be able to write that up in a one-pager and
send it to us? It would be helpful if you would write that up and send it to our
The Chair: It's recorded. We transcribe all these.
Ms. Leween: In addition to what Angel has said and in regard to a
question that was asked earlier about the number of bands that are involved in
the coalition, currently it's 23, but just a note of clarification that we have
been approached by Alberta and Saskatchewan bands to bring our presentation over
to them. So the word is spreading.
When we talk about going out there and bringing this through the entire
corridor, actually the major coalition has already started that process. I just
wanted to mention that.
Mr. Calla: I think one of the points you raised, Senator Smith, is
excellent. Wouldn't it be nice if First Nations had an institutional framework
which they could work from that was not an Indian Act band governance structure?
Where are our central agencies?
To do what you want to do will require a national secretariat and a national
organization. There are a number of Indian organizations that could participate
in this. There is the Indian Resource Council that's based out of Calgary that's
involved in this.
To the point that was raised by Angel, there isn't a willingness to engage in
a process that we are not an equal partner in any longer. Hence my point in the
beginning: If you are going to commission some work, then it has to be done
jointly, or it won't have the ability to influence.
Something I didn't advise you of is that one reason we are doing this through
the First Nations Fiscal Management Act is there is a potential for pretty
significant wealth transfer coming from these projects into First Nation
communities. The financial management capacity and management skills that come
through our certification process and the ability to leverage those downstream
benefits through the First Nations Finance Authority to deal with some of the
challenges that First Nation communities face is one of the reasons why we're so
keen on this.
You can't do anything without money.
Senator Smith: I recognize what you're saying. I realize probably
historically over time there have been a lot of fits and starts and things that
have never taken place to develop the actual outcome that you folks wanted.
The issue is how much are people willing to risk to participate at the
beginning of something that will evolve? None of us at this table realistically
would have clearly the knowledge of where it would end, but if people went in
with good faith and leadership on both sides and awareness so that if there are
traps or follies or misunderstandings along the way there could be solutions,
then to me there is an opportunity to do something that's transformative.
We are talking about something that will change the face of this nation for
the next 100 or 200 years. It will not be easy, but what is needed is folks like
you who have taken the leadership and initiative and have spread that word
amongst your people. For us, we have to find support. Whoever will do the study,
we have to find somebody who will step up and say, "Okay, I'll contribute,'' and
once you get somebody who steps up, someone else will come in, and that's how
you build multiple involvements.
I respect the fact that you said you're not going to do it unless you get
something. I realize that, but the fact of the matter is that if a study is
done, we need to have your participation and your ability to spread that word
out amongst the other nations. You are right that some will say yes and some
will say no, but hopefully more will say yes as they see the potential of what
could come from this project.
Mr. Calla: In the development of four pieces of legislation that moved
First Nations outside the Indian Act that I've been involved in since the 1990s,
we have always found ourselves having to get a coalition of the willing. We have
found that when people can see the merit of why the initiative that we've
undertaken can help them, they will become involved.
It was both coasts that supported the development of this legislation and
very few in between. If I were to show you a map today, we are spread right
across the country because they now have opportunity. I would respectfully
suggest that that will be how it starts. You will start with the people who are
prepared to ask, what if? I don't know what happens from that point, but that's
up to the communities to decide.
Senator Tannas: Playing off of what Senator Smith was saying and
trying to figure out how we do this, would it be welcome, or not rejected out of
hand, if one of our recommendations was that the funding be made available to
the University of Calgary School of Public Policy? That is where the academics
are who did the initial work, and that report, by the way, is extremely
interesting, if you can get it. We can get it to you, in fact. We'll get it to
you. They are looking for $800,000 to go the next step.
What if our recommendation was for that and also for the First Nations Major
Projects Coalition to be funded equally in order to concurrently examine what
the viability might be for some kind of an economic structure that would apply
from Labrador to British Columbia? That's what we're talking about. I can't see
that we can cut à la carte deals all the way across the country. There has to be
something that almost goes to the opt-in, opt-out kind of thing. I don't know.
If we made that recommendation and specifically named your coalition as
someone that we would like to see funded to be a partner in this, would that be
welcomed by you?
Mr. Bevan: Quite honestly, I would have to take that back to the
members of the coalition and ask them for their willingness to participate in a
study such as that and see what the thoughts were around the table of moving
forward with something like that.
Senator Tannas: I'm conscious that we are nowhere near that yet, but
would you give that thought and respond hypothetically, "Yes, we would or no we
would not, but these might be the guys you should talk to''?
Is that okay, chair?
The Chair: Good question. It's up to them to answer it.
Senator Day: I think it's important for the record to recognize the
work that Ms. Ransom mentioned in balancing the economic and the environment and
how important that is in this mix that we're talking about. I congratulate you
for that work that you're doing.
Ms. Ransom: Thank you.
The Chair: I would like to thank Chief Bevan; Chief Leween; Councillor
Ransom; Economic and Financial Adviser Nattrass; and Harold Calla, Executive
Chair of the First Nations Financial Management Board for this great
presentation today. I was forewarned by former Senator St. Germain that it would
be a great presentation, and as usual, he did not fail me.
I have a couple of notes, senators, before we say goodbye to our guests. The
original author General Rohmer will be here on November 17. That will be kind of
exciting. Tomorrow we were supposed to have the Department of Indigenous and
Norther Affairs here, and they cancelled at the last minute, unfortunately, but
we are going to reschedule them.
We have a witness from Perth, Australia, who will talk about some of their
ruminations and discussions on a national corridor. We have him by video
conference at 10:30 tomorrow morning.
(The committee adjourned.)