Indigenous consultation, engagement and reconciliation

Curve Lake First Nation Chief Emily Whetung (left) and Clare Cattrysse, the CNSC’s Director of Policy, Indigenous and International Relations (right), signing the terms of reference virtually

Since the BWXT Commission hearings in 2020, the CNSC has worked, in the spirit of collaboration and partnership, to formalize its relationship with Curve Lake First Nation (CLFN).

In February 2021, the CNSC and CLFN signed terms of reference to continue building the relationship through ongoing, respectful, and open dialogue and collaboration regarding CNSC-regulated nuclear facilities and activities in CLFN territory.

To comply with COVID-19 protocols, CLFN Chief Emily Whetung and Clare Cattrysse, the CNSC’s Director of Policy, Indigenous and International Relations, signed the terms of reference virtually.

As an agent of the Government of Canada and as Canada’s nuclear regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) recognizes and understands the importance of consulting and building relationships with Canada’s Indigenous peoples.

The CNSC is aware that Indigenous peoples may have concerns with regard to the nuclear sector and that it is important to seek opportunities to work together in ensuring the safe and effective regulation of nuclear energy and materials.

Duty to consult

The Government of Canada has a duty to consult and, where appropriate, accommodate Indigenous groups when it considers conduct that might adversely impact potential or established Indigenous or treaty rights. The duty to consult is an important part of the CNSC’s activities, including for licensing and environmental review decision making. The CNSC has articulated its approach in its CNSC Policy Statement: CNSC Commitment to Indigenous Consultation and Engagement.

The CNSC ensures that all of its licensing decisions and environmental reviews under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act (NSCA) the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, the Impact Assessment Act, or other relevant legislation uphold the honour of the Crown and consider Indigenous peoples’ potential or established Indigenous or treaty rights pursuant to section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 (together, the "Indigenous interests").

Coordinated approaches

Where its quasi-judicial functions allow, the CNSC supports a whole-of-government approach to Indigenous consultation. The CNSC will coordinate consultative efforts, where feasible, with other federal, provincial, and/or territorial regulatory departments and agencies through a one-window approach with respect to environmental reviews and licensing activities.

Consultation requirements for environmental review and licensing processes

Indigenous consultation is an important aspect of the CNSC’s environmental review and licensing processes. The CNSC ensures that Indigenous groups have meaningful opportunities to participate in all aspects of environmental review and licensing processes, in order to meet the Crown’s duty to consult and accommodate. The CNSC, as a nuclear lifecycle regulator, recognizes that consultation activities may continue beyond an environmental review or licensing process throughout the lifecycle of nuclear facilities.

To learn more about the CNSC’s approach to Environmental Review processes, please visit the CNSC’s Environmental reviews web page.

Engagement and reconciliation

Beyond consultation that arises from contemplated licensing and Environmental Review decisions, CNSC staff are committed to building long-term relationships with Indigenous peoples. Staff do so by pursuing ongoing, informative and collaborative interactions with Indigenous groups and organizations who have interests regarding the regulation of nuclear activities and facilities within their traditional and/or treaty territories. The CNSC’s goal is to build partnerships and trust with Indigenous communities with an interest in CNSC-regulated facilities.

The CNSC’s Indigenous engagement practices are consistent with the principles of upholding the honour of the Crown and reconciliation. By providing ongoing funding support through the CNSC’s Participant Funding Program, as well as ongoing engagement and information sharing, the CNSC helps to ensure that Indigenous peoples can meaningfully participate in Commission proceedings and ongoing regulatory work including regulatory oversight reports and the CNSC’s Independent Environmental Monitoring Program.

Expectations and requirements of licensees and applicants for Indigenous engagement

In 2016, the CNSC published REGDOC-3.2.2, Indigenous Engagement, which sets out requirements and guidance for licensees and applicants whose proposed projects may raise the Crown’s duty to consult.

While the CNSC cannot delegate its obligation, it can delegate procedural aspects of the consultation process to licensees where appropriate. In many cases, licensees are best positioned to collect information and propose any appropriate additional measures to avoid, mitigate or offset adverse impacts on Indigenous rights and interests, and the CNSC may use such measures in meeting its consultation obligations.

For more information, please see REGDOC-3.2.2, Indigenous Engagement.

Support for Indigenous groups for meaningful participation

As part of its approach to Indigenous consultation and engagement, the CNSC has established tools and mechanisms to help support Indigenous groups in participating meaningfully in CNSC regulatory activities, including:

  • the CNSC’s Participant Funding Program (PFP) (on average over 60% of funding from CNSC’s PFP is awarded to Indigenous communities and organizations), which includes funding support for:
    • meetings with CNSC staff on topics of regulatory interest
    • participation in environmental monitoring programs
    • Indigenous knowledge and land use studies, where applicable
  • translation of Commission proceedings into Indigenous languages, where appropriate
  • open houses and "Meet the Nuclear Regulator" sessions in Indigenous communities, upon request
  • outreach in Indigenous communities, including schools
  • provision, in a timely and effective way, of relevant information to Indigenous communities, including making experts available to answer questions from Indigenous communities upon request
  • means for Indigenous groups and individuals to appear before the Commission through oral interventions in relation to any public Commission proceeding

Indigenous knowledge

The CNSC acknowledges the importance of working with and integrating Indigenous knowledge into its regulatory processes where appropriate and when provided to the CNSC by Indigenous communities. Indigenous ways of knowing and cultural context enhance the CNSC’s understanding of potential impacts of projects and strengthen the rigour of project reviews and regulatory oversight.

The CNSC endeavours to collaborate with Indigenous communities to ensure that Indigenous knowledge is appropriately protected, managed, considered and reflected in the CNSC’s regulatory activities. The CNSC works to integrate Indigenous knowledge information into a number of areas of its regulatory work where appropriate, including, but not limited to:

  • environmental reviews (alternatives assessment, valued components, potential impacts on Indigenous or treaty rights and interests)
  • environmental monitoring (including sampling plans and screening levels)
  • environmental risk assessments
  • compliance and verification (including determination of derived release limits and assessments of risk to human health)
  • ongoing engagement and outreach with Indigenous communities

Related links

For more information about the CNSC’s approach to Indigenous consultation, engagement and reconciliation, contact us.

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