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

Community Foundation North Okanagan is now accepting applications for its annual Smart and Caring Community Grants program. (CFNO photo)
Cash available for North Okanagan non-profits

Community Foundation North Okanagan seeks applicants for its annual Smart and Caring Grants program

The current B.C. Men’s curling champions, Rick Sawatsky (Vernon and now living and working in Kelowna, from left), Andrew Nerpin (Kelowna), Jim Cotter (Vernon) and Steve Laycock (Saskatoon), have yet to find the win column at the 2021 Tim Hortons Brier in Calgary. (Black Press - file photo)
B.C. looking for Brier victory

Team B.C. falls to 0-2 Sunday, March 7, with 10-7 loss to Wild Card 1 entry from Manitoba

Forty-seven vaccination clinics will open across Interior Health beginning March 15. (Canadian Press)
48 COVID-19 vaccine clinics to open across Interior Health

Select groups can book appointments starting Monday

Forty-seven vaccination clinics will open across Interior Health beginning March 15. (Canadian Press)
48 COVID-19 vaccine clinics to open across Interior Health

Select groups can book appointments starting Monday

Coldstream’s Kalamalka Secondary has teamed up with Globox on a fundraising raffle for its graduating class of 2021. (Photo supplied)
Coldstream secondary school grads glowing over fundraiser

Globox giving away five gift boxes worth about $6,000 in raffle, proceeds to Kal’s Class of ‘21

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

Const. Allan Young. Photo: Abbotsford Police Department
Manslaughter charge laid in Nelson death of Abbotsford police officer

Allan Young died after an incident in downtown Nelson last summer

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
One of two Kelowna General Hospital COVID-19 outbreaks declared over

One outbreak declared over after two deaths, seven cases; another outbreak remains ongoing in the hospital

Cottonwoods Care Home in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kelowna care home after 12 cases noted

Two staff members and 10 residents at Cottonwoods Care Centre have tested positive for COVID-19

There is no true picture of how many youth in Penticton are experiencing housing instability or true homelessness. The Foundry and the city of Penticton are trying to find that out.
How many youth are experiencing homelessness in Penticton?

Foundry Penticton and the City have partnered on a youth survey open until March 13

Chelsea Ishizuka was borned and raised in Penticton but has now moved to Japan. When she found out there was a popular restaurant there named after Penticton, she had to go check it out. Here she is with the owner (right). (Facebook)
Popular restaurant in Japan named after city of Penticton

A Pentictonite now living in Tokyo discovered the eatery and the history behind its name

(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

Most Read