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INDIGENOUS CONSULTATION AND ENGAGEMENT AT CANADA’S ENERGY AND UTILITY REGULATORS

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INDIGENOUS CONSULTATION AND ENGAGEMENT AT CANADA’S ENERGY AND UTILITY REGULATORS

CAMPUT is the Association of Canada’s provincial, territorial and federal energy and utility regulators.  CAMPUT’s purpose is to improve energy and utility regulations in Canada and to educate and train our members.  We are highlighting the work of two of our members, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the Canada Energy Regulator, in the areas of Indigenous consultation and engagement.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has a broad mandate, including to protect health, safety and security, and the environment, and to disseminate objective scientific, technical and regulatory information to the public, including Indigenous groups.   The CNSC is also an agent of the Crown with the responsibility of ensuring the Duty to Consult is met before making decisions.  The CNSC has explored various means to ensure that Indigenous groups’ voices are heard and integrated into Commission decision-making. The CNSC has also committed to developing on-going, respectful relationships that allow open dialogue in the spirit of reconciliation and trust building.

First, the CNSC focused in-house and put into place policies, practices and processes with an overarching regulatory framework and management system to confirm that CNSC decisions uphold the Honor of the Crown. This included a Regulatory Document (REGDOC 3.2.2, 2016) that sets out the Commission expectations on how proponents play a significant role in working with Indigenous groups to address concerns and mitigate impacts and / or treaty rights, early in design and project proposal stages.

The CNSC also has a dedicated team with expertise in Indigenous consultation and engagement that conducts ongoing engagement with Indigenous groups with interests in nuclear facilities. The long-term goal is to help build relationships and trust and help CNSC staff learn more about the history, rights, interests, and culture of the Indigenous groups. The CNSC continues to work with Indigenous groups to ensure they are provided the opportunity to present their views and give oral presentations at Commission hearings.

To support this participation, the CNSC has put in place a Participant Funding Program that in part, has helped Indigenous groups hire consultants to review technical scientific reports, fund Indigenous Knowledge studies, cover community meeting costs, pay Honoraria for elders, and costs for travel and preparations for hearings. Further, Commission hearings have taken place in communities near facilities to allow easier access by Indigenous groups, and teleconferencing, web access, live streaming and simultaneous translation in Indigenous languages has also been used.

The CNSC acknowledges the importance of working with and integrating Indigenous Knowledge alongside scientific and regulatory information in its assessments and regulatory processes, where appropriate and where authorized by Indigenous communities. Indigenous ways of knowing and cultural context enhance the CNSC’s understanding of potential impacts of projects and strengthens project reviews and regulatory oversight.

The CNSC also runs its own Independent Environmental Monitoring Program (IEMP) that seeks Indigenous participation in taking samples from public areas around nuclear facilities and measuring and analyzing the amount of radiological and hazardous substances in the samples. Following discussions with many Indigenous groups, it was recognized that they could play a key role in identifying country foods and traditional harvest areas and participate as part of the IEMP. Getting meaningful monitoring results to Indigenous communities is a key priority for the CNSC.

The Canada Energy Regulator (CER) welcomes change. In August 2019 we transitioned from the National Energy Board to the Canada Energy Regulator. The CER has been given new legislation and is focused on improvement. Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples is a pillar of our renewal.

Our legislation directs us to find meaningful ways to engage with Indigenous Peoples. We embrace our new mandate and have woven specific deliverables on reconciliation into every aspect of our work.

Our vision: to transform the way we work with Indigenous Peoples, recognizing their unique cultures, knowledge and histories; and endeavor to reflect a renewed Nation- to-Nation relationship based on the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership.

We recognize reconciliation is an ongoing process that occurs in the context of evolving Indigenous-Crown relationships. Sitting around the table with Indigenous communities, we are working to find new ways to co-manage regulatory oversight. We recognize the inseparable connection Indigenous Peoples have with the land and the water, and we will work collaboratively to protect them. We are also ensuring we equip the communities with the right skills and support to make the changes we envision a reality.

Indigenous Advisory and Monitoring Committees (IAMC) bring together Indigenous and federal leaders to provide advice to regulators and to monitor the Trans Mountain Expansion and Line pipelines. Members share the goals of safety and protection of environmental and Indigenous interests in the lands and water. Indigenous participation does not equal support or opposition for a project, allowing for better information-sharing within the group. This initiative represents a foundational change in the way the CER and the Federal government work with Indigenous Peoples. It aims to develop an enduring and meaningful relationship for the entire lifecycle of the project. We believe our work with the IAMCs can lead the way on co- management of regulatory oversight activities and has the potential to be applied across the rest of Canada’s energy system.

Here are some other ways we are changing how we work with Indigenous Peoples:

  • We are meeting with Indigenous communities earlier on who may be impacted by projects we regulate to better understand their concerns and share how the CER holds companies accountable for the protection of Indigenous rights and interests.
  • We are adapting our hearing processes to allow for different paths of Indigenous participation. This includes sharing Indigenous Knowledge, allowing for ceremonies, selecting specific locations for the hearing that are convenient to Indigenous participants or elders, and allowing for remote participation if travel is not possible.
  • We are developing a National Indigenous Monitoring Policy so that all CER-regulated infrastructure projects can benefit from Indigenous Knowledge when they are being build and operated.
  • We are training our employees to understand more about Indigenous history, culture and contemporary issues facing Indigenous Peoples in Canada. This training ensures that consideration of Indigenous rights and interests and becomes embedded in our way of working.

Background.  The Canadian Energy Compendium is an annual Energy Council of Canada initiative which provides opportunity for cross-sectoral collaboration on a topic of shared interest across the Canadian energy sector, produced with the support of Canada’s national energy associations and Energy Council of Canada’s members. The stories contributed to the 2019 edition, Indigenous Energy Across Canada, highlight current conversations celebrating Canada’s dynamic energy sector and encouraging its continuous improvement.

Thanks to Todayville for helping us bring our members’ stories of collaboration and innovation to the public.

Click to read a foreward from JP Gladu, Chief Development and Relations Officer, Steel River Group; Former President and CEO, Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business.

JP Gladu, Chief Development and Relations Officer, Steel
River Group; Former President & CEO, Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business

 

Jacob Irving, President of Energy Council of Canada

The Canadian Energy Compendium is an annual initiative by the Energy Council of Canada to provide an opportunity for cross-sectoral collaboration and discussion on current topics in Canada’s energy sector.  The 2020 Canadian Energy Compendium: Innovations in Energy Efficiency is due to be released November 2020.

Click to read comments about this series from Jacob Irving, President of the Energy Council of Canada.

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Read more on Todayville.

 

The Energy Council of Canada brings together a diverse body of members, including voices from all energy industries, associations, and levels of government within Canada. We foster dialogue, strategic thinking, collaboration, and action by bringing together senior energy executives from all industries in the public and private sectors to address national, continental, and international energy issues.

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Hootsuite to lay off 30 per cent of staff, begin global restructuring

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VANCOUVER — Hootsuite Inc. says it will lay off 30 per cent of its staff as part of a global restructuring.

The Vancouver-based social media business declined to answer questions about the exact number of staff laid off, but the most recent figures from financial data firm Refinitiv show the company employs about 1,000 people.

The company also did not say what triggered the job cuts, but tech companies as large as Shopify, Netflix and Clearco have conducted similar layoffs in recent weeks as investor interest in tech stocks has faded.

Hootsuite CEO Tom Keiser says the move will help the company once considered a darling in Canada’s tech scene to realign itself with strategies that can make it successful.

He says Hootsuite needs to refocus, so it can drive efficiency, growth and financial sustainability.

In a statement, he said, “Today our focus is on our people, both those who are leaving us and those who are staying, and ensuring our customers continue to receive the support they need.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 9, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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Air Canada denying passenger compensation claims for staff shortages, citing safety

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MONTREAL — Less than four hours before departure, Ryan Farrell was surprised to learn his flight from Yellowknife to Calgary had been cancelled.

Air Canada cited “crew constraints” and rebooked him on a plane leaving 48 hours after the June 17 flight’s original takeoff time.

Farrell was even more surprised six weeks later, when he learned his request for compensation had been denied on the basis of the staff shortage.

“Since your Air Canada flight was delayed/cancelled due to crew constraints resulting from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our operations, the compensation you are requesting does not apply because the delay/cancellation was caused by a safety-related issue,” reads the email from customer relations dated July 29.

The rejection “feels like a slap in the face,” Farrell said.

“If they don’t have replacement crew to substitute in, then the flight (was) cancelled because they failed to assemble a crew, not because any other factor would have made it inherently unsafe to run the flight,” he said in an email.

“I think the airlines are trying to exploit a general emotional connection that people make between ‘COVID-19’ and ‘safety,’ when in reality if you put their logic to the test it doesn’t stand up.”

Air Canada’s response to Farrell’s complaint was no outlier. In a Dec. 29 memo, the company instructed employees to classify flight cancellations caused by staff shortages as a “safety” problem, which would exclude travellers from compensation under federal regulations. That policy remains in place.

Canada’s passenger rights charter, the Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR), mandates airlines to pay up to $1,000 in compensation for cancellations or significant delays that stem from reasons within the carrier’s control when the notification comes 14 days or less before departure. However, airlines do not have to pay if the change was required for safety purposes.

The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA), a quasi-judicial federal body, says treating staff shortages as a safety matter violates federal rules.

“If a crew shortage is due to the actions or inactions of the carrier, the disruption will be considered within the carrier’s control for the purposes of the APPR. Therefore, a disruption caused by a crew shortage should not be considered ‘required for safety purposes’ when it is the carrier who caused the safety issue as a result of its own actions,” the agency said in an email.

That stance reinforces a decision made July 8 — three weeks before Farrell learned he’d been denied compensation — when the CTA used nearly identical language in a dispute over a flight at a different air carrier. The regulatory panel’s ruling in that case emphasized airlines’ obligations around advance planning “to ensure that the carrier has enough staff available to operate the services it offers for sale.”

In the December memo, which was issued at the height of the Omicron wave of COVID-19, Air Canada said: “Effective immediately, flight cancellations due to crew are considered as Within Carrier Control — For Safety.”

“Customers impacted by these flight cancellations will still be eligible for the standard of treatments such as hotel accommodations, meals etc. but will no longer be eligible for APPR claims/monetary compensation.”

The staff directive said the stance would be “temporary.” But Air Canada acknowledged in an email on July 25 that the policy “remains in place given the continued exceptional circumstances brought on by COVID variants.”

Gabor Lukacs, president of the Air Passenger Rights advocacy group, said Air Canada is exploiting a loophole in the passenger rights charter to avoid paying compensation, and called on the transport regulator for stronger enforcement.

“They are misclassifying things that are clearly not a safety issue,” he said of Canada’s largest airline, calling the policy “egregious.”

Consumers can dispute an airline’s denial of a claim via a compliant to the CTA. However, the agency’s backlog topped 15,300 air travel complaints as of May.

Lukacs also noted that European Union regulations do not exclude safety reasons from situations requiring compensation in the event of cancellations or delays. Payouts are precluded only as a result of “extraordinary circumstances,” such as weather or political instability.

“This document, along with the previous declarations and behaviour since the beginning of the pandemic, shows that Air Canada’s priority is clearly to try to limit the costs of the flight cancellations instead of providing good service to its clients,” Sylvie De Bellefeuille, a lawyer with Quebec-based advocacy group Option consommateurs, said after reviewing a copy of the directive.

She said Air Canada aims to deter passengers from requesting compensation in the first place. “This tactic does not, in our opinion, demonstrate that the company cares about its customers.”

Air Canada disagrees with that characterization.

“Air Canada had and continues to have more employees proportionate to its flying schedule when compared prior to the pandemic,” the company said in an emailed statement, indicating it had done everything it could to prepare for operational hiccups.

“Air Canada follows all public health directives as part of its safety culture, and during the Omicron wave last winter that affected some crew availability, we revised our policy to better assist customers in their travels with enhanced levels of customer care for flight cancellations related to crew contending with COVID.”

John Gradek, head of McGill University’s aviation management program, said the transportation agency is partly responsible for the “debacle” because it established looser rules than those in Europe and the United States.

“Carriers have been making strong efforts to point fingers and claim delays are outside of their control to reduce liability,” he said in an email.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 7, 2022.

Companies in this story: (TSX:AC)

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

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