Tribal Chief Tyrone McNeil, a Sto:lo member in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley, is the chairman of a new Indigenous advisory committee at the Canada Energy Regulator. (Submitted to The Canadian Press)

Tribal Chief Tyrone McNeil, a Sto:lo member in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley, is the chairman of a new Indigenous advisory committee at the Canada Energy Regulator. (Submitted to The Canadian Press)

Head of new Indigenous committee aims for systemic change at Canada Energy Regulator

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government replaced the National Energy Board with the new regulator in 2019

The chairman of a new Indigenous advisory committee at the Canada Energy Regulator says he wants to fix a system that has treated First Nations, Inuit and Metis people as an “afterthought.”

Tribal Chief Tyrone McNeil, a Sto:lo member in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley, said he doesn’t view it as a problem that the committee has no decision-making power over specific projects.

McNeil said his group, made up of nine members, provides strategic advice to the energy regulator on incorporating Indigenous Peoples in natural resource development and oversight.

The committee meets regularly with the board and senior management, and he said in an interview Thursday he wants to take advantage of that and “fix the big system overall.”

“Quite often, in other aspects, we’re brought in as an afterthought or an add-on. In this case, we’re part of the CER act itself,” he said. “The influence is compounded when you have a willing partner sitting with us at the table — not at the other side of the table, but with us at the table.

“This thing has tremendous potential, in short order, to influence projects going forward.”

While McNeil said he’s not focused on existing projects like the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, the committee’s advice may be applied to such projects and have an indirect effect on operations.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government replaced the National Energy Board with the new regulator in 2019 amid a number of battles with First Nations over pipelines. His government has also contended with long-standing concerns from investors that building natural resource projects is too difficult in Canada.

The Canada Energy Regulator Act aimed to clear the path forward for such projects by bringing Indigenous Peoples into the fold, requiring the regulator to create the advisory committee.

The committee is still in its early stages and recently met to endorse its terms of reference, which state its purpose is to transform the relationship between Indigenous Peoples and the regulator.

McNeil said he sees a “huge difference” between the old energy board and the new organization.

“We had our battles with the NEB back in the day, but once I read the act, there was no fear,” he said. “I saw so much opportunity, so much potential, I couldn’t say no.”

He said when Indigenous people encountered problems in the past with natural resource companies, regulators and governments, it was often because “they have no idea who we are.”

“We’re all distinct. We’re all different,” he said. “We’re building the cultural competency at the CER as a whole.”

He noted the act also includes a commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which requires “free, prior and informed consent.” The committee will help the regulator build a new consultation model that factors in this requirement, which means engaging with communities at the earliest stages, McNeil said.

“I feel really strongly that’s going to compel companies to do a whole lot more work in advance so they have more confidence before they bring (projects forward),” he said.

Cassie Doyle, board chairwoman at the regulator, said the Indigenous committee will support systemic change in the organization and help it achieve its overall goal of reconciliation.

“This Indigenous advisory committee is unique in that it’s operating at a strategic level. We have already received very good advice (from it),” she said.

The regulator’s CEO, Gitane De Silva, said that advice has included, for example, how it should be transforming its approach to Indigenous oversight and monitoring of specific projects.

“While that’s not specific to a piece of infrastructure, that will help us form a policy that we use in all our interactions with regulated industry,” she said.

She added that the regulator is approaching this process “with humility.”

“We know we have a lot of work to do,” she said. “We very much welcome the advice of the committee and their individual members and we see it as a tremendous opportunity for the organization to be a much better regulator for all of Canada.”

Laura Dhillon Kane, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Indigenous

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An Island Health nurse prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo courtesy Island Health)
Health authority opening 19 clinics to immunize Vancouver Island residents

Health authority anticipates more than 40,000 people will be immunized over the next month

Mount Brenton Golf Course unveils its board of directors for 2021-22. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Fritsch elected president of Mount Brenton Golf Course board of directors

Annual general meeting conducted by Zoom for the first time

Municipality of North Cowichan.
North Cowichan receives community resiliency fire smart funding

More effective wildfire protection regulations will be implemented

Municipality of North Cowichan.
North Cowichan thinking collaboratively on provincial funding

Contract for outfall relocation awarded pending City of Duncan approval

Chemainus Communities In Bloom.
Signs of spring are closing in around us

Chemainus Communities In Bloom provides gardening tips for March 2021

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

The Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Parts recycled, life returning to inlet as as old Port Alice mill decommissioned

Bankruptcy company oversees de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Most Read