All comments received during the comment period on the Draft Aboriginal Consultation Guide for preparing REA Applications were considered as part of the decision-making process by the Ministry of the Environment.
Below is a summary of comments received on the Draft Aboriginal Consultation Guide & ministry responses reflected in the final Aboriginal Consultation Guide for Preparing a Renewable Energy Approval (REA) Application:
First Nation and Métis communities and/or organizations raised concern that the guide was lacking in terms of statements and reference to “accommodation”.
In response, the ministry has more clearly incorporated reference to, and clarification of, “accommodation” in the context of REA and the Crown’s duty to consult Aboriginal communities.
First Nation and Métis communities and/or organizations raised concern that there is insufficient stress placed on the need for proponents to provide sufficient capacity funding to communities they are consulting.
Industry raised concern that there was insufficient detail regarding limits on what are “reasonable costs” and what Industry is responsible for.
In response the ministry has provided additional information to encourage community level capacity building as well as additional information regarding potential funding costs.
First Nation and Métis communities and/or organizations as well as the legal community raised concern with the insufficient detail regarding the role of the ministry in the consultation process including the ministry role in dispute resolution and assisting parties in the process and providing clarity regarding ministry decision making and community consent.
First Nation and Métis communities and/or organizations also raised concerns that there were insufficient measures to ensure Aboriginal community validation of information provided by Applicant’s in their REA reports or applications to the ministry.
In response, the ministry has added specific information regarding the ministry’s role in facilitating discussions, providing information and assistance to all parties, including where discussions between the parties break down. Additional information is provided regarding the ministry’s role in implementation and decision making at various points in the process.
The ministry has also clarified the effect of accepting an REA application for technical review and has provided additional guidance regarding Aboriginal consultation reports to facilitate ministry and community review. Further, the ministry has requested that Applicants provide the final consultation report to Aboriginal communities before or upon an REA application submission to the ministry.
First Nation and Métis communities and/or organizations raised concern regarding the process for developing consultation plans, and the need for reference to specific criteria that guides the decision to require a consultation plan and community involvement.
In response, the ministry has clarified the purpose for the ministry requesting a consultation plan from Applicants and ministry expectations to assist Applicants in developing a consultation plan. The ministry has also clarified information regarding the role of the ministry in circumstances that indicate additional consultation may be required beyond the REA regulatory requirements.
First Nation and Métis communities and/or organizations raised concern regarding the role of community protocols and the need to recognize and respect that some First Nations and Métis communities have established processes to be followed in consultation.
In response, the ministry has clarified information regarding the consideration of community processes and that Applicants remain obliged to ensure the renewable energy regulation and the guide are followed.
First Nation and Métis communities and/or organizations raised concern that on-going dialogue throughout the lifecycle of a project is not to be used as a substitute for complete consultation and accommodation before the grant of an REA approval and that traditional aboriginal knowledge and the sharing of that information should be respected and considered as a key part of any ongoing monitoring activities.
In response, the ministry has clarified that on-going dialogue is appropriate but consultation must be completed before an REA approval decision is made and that there may be standards or procedures regarding knowledge shared by a community that should be discussed and respected by Applicants.
Ontario is committed to environmental protection while increasing clean, renewable energy in a manner that is protective of human health and the environment. The Aboriginal Consultation Guide for Preparing a Renewable Energy Approval (REA) Application reflects a transparent and inclusive process that places a high degree of importance on consultation with First Nations and Métis Communities, highlighting best practices and opportunities for effective relationship building. The ministry will continue to work with proponents as well as First Nation and Métis communities involved in the consultation process for Renewable Energy projects.