Environmental Assessment and the Foundation Agreement
Environmental Assessments (EAs) are project reviews to help governments decide whether to approve major projects, like pipelines and large mines. The Province adopted a new and improved EA law in 2018. The new Environmental Assessment Act encourages significant Indigenous participation in EAs.
Under section 8 of the Foundation Agreement, Lake Babine Nation is pursuing two EA agreements with British Columbia (BC). These are general agreements, not specific to any one project. The first is an EA Collaboration Agreement setting out how Lake Babine and BC will work together in EAs.
After the Collaboration Agreement is in place, Lake Babine and BC will negotiate an EA Consent Agreement. It would require Lake Babine’s consent for projects in a specified part of Lake Babine Territory; BC would not approve projects without Lake Babine’s consent.
The Collaboration Agreement will be positive for Lake Babine in these ways:
- Lake Babine will be ready to engage as soon as a company (or “proponent”), comes forward with a project, instead of spending weeks or months figuring out process. No more playing catch up to BC’s process like Lake Babine has previously had to do.
- The Collaboration Agreement will strongly signal to proponents that they must work with Lake Babine from day one in a respectful and honest way, including by sharing all the necessary information that Lake Babine needs to decide whether it consents to their proposed project.
- Lake Babine and BC will share information to inform their review and assessment of projects, including Lake Babine’s information. Information sharing will better position both Lake Babine and BC to make informed decisions about proposed projects.
- Lake Babine’s deep involvement in EAs will help BC better understand Lake Babine’s needs and perspectives. The EA will be more likely to produce the information and analysis Lake Babine needs to make its decision. Collaboration will also help BC better understand and consider Lake Babine’s views on a project when making its decision.
- The Collaboration Agreement is a stepping stone towards the Consent Agreement, which would give Lake Babine final say on whether projects get approved or not.
An LBN Environmental Assessment Policy
A strong role for Lake Babine in the EA process is not enough: Lake Babine also needs a clear and sound policy on how to decide whether it consents to projects. A policy made by Lake Babine, based on Lake Babine needs, values and responsibilities. Lake Babine’s EA decision-making policy will be included in the Collaboration Agreement. This will help BC and proponents understand what Lake Babine expects of any project proposed in Lake Babine Territory. Proponents will need to start showing whether and how their project meets Lake Babine’s requirements.
For some years now, Lake Babine Chief and Council have required projects to meet the following 4 criteria:
- The project must be sustainable.
- The project must bring significant benefits to LBN, in keeping with the level of project impacts on LBN, niwh be ‘ondzin (LBN rights), and yintah (Territory and the natural resources it sustains).
- The project must include sufficient and reliable measures to manage any potential negative socio-economic impacts on LBN communities and members.
- The proponent and LBN must be in a respectful relationship that includes significant LBN involvement in the project, in keeping with the nature and level of project impacts on LBN, niwh be ‘ondzin, and
More recently, a Lake Babine Nation has developed more detailed frameworks for criteria 1 and 3 to explain what sustainable development means to Lake Babine and to identify the socio-economic impacts that Lake Babine requires proponents to manage effectively.
For any questions about the documents, you can contact Councillor Verna Power, or Lake Babine’s legal counsel, Dominique Nouvet: firstname.lastname@example.org