Terms of Reference
Indigenous Advisory Committee
Circle of Experts Sub Committee

1.0 Mandate

The Circle of Experts (the Circle) is a sub-committee of the Indigenous Advisory Committee (IAC) at the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (the Agency). The Circle is a structure through which First Nations, Inuit and Métis, and experts recommended by Indigenous individuals and organizations, will co-develop with the Agency a discussion paper for the Indigenous Impact Assessment Co-Administration Agreement Regulations and Policy Framework (the Framework), which will inform the national engagement process for regulatory development.

The Circle will work with the Agency to provide non-political technical expertise to the development of a regulatory and policy framework for Indigenous co-administration agreements under the Impact Assessment Act.

As the Circle is a Sub Committee of the IAC, the Circle will inform the IAC at key milestones and receive guidance from the IAC on the general direction of the work and the final product.

2.0 Membership Composition

The Circle will be comprised of Indigenous individuals, or those recommended by Indigenous governing bodies, who have expertise in fields relevant to the Circle’s mandate. Members of the Circle will not play a representative function on behalf of their community, Indigenous nation, or organization. The Agency will also endeavor to ensure the membership of the Circle reflects the unique perspectives of First Nations, the Métis Nation, and Inuit Peoples, as well as balancing regional and gender representation.

Membership may be adjusted to ensure the appropriate representation of expertise and experience. Ad hoc members, if needed, will be appointed by the Agency.

2.1 Agency Representative

The Agency’s Director, Indigenous Policy, or the designated representative of the Director will participate in meetings with the Circle as the Agency representative for the co-development process.

2.2 Writing support

The secretariat will provide for policy writing services to support the Circle and the Agency in drafting the discussion paper. The writers(s) may attend meetings and will work with the Circle in between meetings to develop content of the discussion paper.

2.3 Guests & Elders

Guests can be invited to participate in meetings of the Circle when additional or specific expertise is required. The Chairperson, in consultation with other members and the Agency, may request of the Secretariat to invite guests to attend particular meetings or join the Circle for a defined time period.

The Chairperson, in consultation with other members and the Agency, may also request of the Secretariat to invite an Elder of their choosing to conduct opening and closing ceremonies.

3.0 Co-development and Consensus-Building

Co-development means being responsive and flexible and doing the work required to tackle technical challenges together as partners. The Agency’s approach for this process of co-development is to be honest and transparent about federal constraints and interests from the outset and to remain open to the re-evaluation of federal perspectives through dialogue and co-operation with Indigenous peoples and experts.

Together, the Circle and the Agency will prepare the discussion paper for the Framework. The content of the discussion paper will be developed by consensus to the extent possible.

The Agency will consult internally on various aspects of the discussion paper, including briefing the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada (the Minister) on progress and draft content during the process. The Circle, or members thereof, may participate in these briefings when invited by the Minister’s Office. The Agency will share back to the Circle the results of these internal-to-government consultations, and will work with the Circle to address any considerations or challenges raised.

If the views of the Agency and the Circle differ on the content of the discussion paper, both parties shall make best efforts to achieve consensus. If the Agency and the Circle are unable to reach consensus, they shall ensure that any non-consensus views are clearly and fairly articulated in the final discussion paper.

The following outlines the process to be used should there be disagreements on certain content:

  1. The matter to be decided is introduced by the Chairperson;
  2. The floor is opened for respectful discussion with the Circle members and Agency representatives;
  3. The Chairperson will determine if all members and the Agency representatives are in agreement;
  4. Members who object to the decision reached must provide an explanation as to why they object and provide an alternative for the Circle to consider, or may recuse themselves from the decision-making process to allow the Circle to achieve consensus;
  5. Following this discussion, the Chairperson will determine and declare if consensus has been reached.
  6. The Chairperson will work with the secretariat to ensure that the consensus and non-consensus views are clearly and fairly articulated in the meeting records, to be then integrated into the discussion paper.

The IAC may also be asked to offer advice to support the Circle in reaching consensus, but will not attempt to resolve the issue in place of the Circle.

Members may also achieve consensus via email, where determined by the Chairperson to be appropriate, in cases where decision-making is required between meetings or certain members are absent from meetings.

4.0 Conflict of Interest

Members of the Circle are expected to provide advice exclusively in their personal capacity; the use of their positions cannot be reasonably construed to be for their private gain or that of any other person, company, or organization. Members are required to avoid real, potential or apparent conflicts of interest and are expected to recuse themselves on issues where necessary.

To be considered for appointment, potential members of the Circle are required to complete a conflict of interest form provided by the Agency. The completed declaration will be considered confidential and the Agency will not disclose any information in the declaration without the member’s permission or otherwise required by the Privacy Act or the Access to Information Act.

Should their personal situation change, it is incumbent upon the member to update all information, including their disclosure of conflict of interests, in writing. The Circle’s secretariat will review reports prior to appointment, on an ongoing basis, and as updates occur.

5.0 Code of Ethics

Members are expected to conduct themselves in a manner consistent with the Code of Ethics for the Indigenous Advisory Committee. For clarity, that means members must behave consistently with the values of:

6.0 Travel and Expenses

An amount will be provided to all members to recognize their preparation for and participation in meetings. The Agency will also reimburse members’ approved travel expenses in accordance with relevant Government of Canada policies including the National Joint Council Travel Directive. The secretariat will supply members with a copy of the directive and provide assistance as needed.

7.0 Tenure

The Circle’s members are appointed by the Agency for the drafting of the discussion paper for the Regulations. Membership of the Circle may be extended to support subsequent regulatory development and implementation, at the discretion of the Agency.

8.0 Resignation

Members should provide two weeks’ notice of their intent to resign. The resignation notice must be in writing and be addressed to the Agency. The letter should state the effective date of resignation.

9.0 Reasons for Termination

The Agency, by itself or upon receipt of a recommendation from a consensus of members, shall terminate a member’s appointment for just cause. Examples of just cause include a member’s failure:

10.0 Roles and Responsibilities

10.1 The Circle

The Circle, as a whole, shall:

10.2 Members

Individual members of the Circle shall:

10.3 Rotating Chairperson/Champion

The Chairperson for the Circle will be on a rotating basis, to be determined by the Circle based on an agreed-upon list of champions for various themes of discussion. The Secretariat will coordinate with the rotating chairperson to book a pre-meeting to set the Agenda and a post-meeting to support drafting. In addition to the responsibilities of all Circle members, the Chairperson for each meeting shall:

10.4 Secretariat

The secretariat to the Circle is housed in the External Relations & Strategic Policy Sector of the Agency. The Secretariat shall:

10.5 The Agency

The Director, Indigenous Policy Division, of the Agency will act as the Agency representative in the co-development process. In this role, the Director or their designated representative shall:

10.6 Writing Support (Two Worlds Consulting)

11.0 Management and Administration

11.1 Transparency

The Agency is committed to transparency as an operating principle. All activities of the Circle are to be transparent with the exception of occasional confidential items that may arise. The confidentiality and privacy policies of the Government of Canada apply to all meeting records which are available upon request.

All Circle members, consultants, guests and Agency representatives who may be in attendance at a meeting or privy to Circle information, shall protect and keep confidential any information that is identified as confidential and is received through participation on the Circle, unless such information is approved by the Circle for public release.

For clear and consistent messaging, members should direct media inquiries to the Circle rotating chairperson and the Agency representative. Members may speak about the Circle’s past and documented activities in their professional communities. The Secretariat will engage with the Agency’s Communications team to oversee any media-related engagement for the Council.

Meetings of the Circle of Experts will be recorded in MS Teams by the Secretariat to assist in note-taking and briefing of Circle members. Recordings will be deleted once the discussion paper has been drafted.

Reports and records from the Circle are non-attributable; there will be no references to comments made by individual members.

11.2 Meeting Agendas

The Secretariat, in consultation with the Circle and Agency representative, prepares the meeting agenda.

11.3 Meeting Notice and Invitations

The secretariat is responsible for organizing, scheduling and circulating all meeting material. As a standard practice, barring exceptional circumstances, members will generally receive the agenda and background material in advance of the meeting. Presentations by members or others will be circulated in advance of the meeting, where feasible.

11.4 Quorum

If a member of the Circle is unable to attend a meeting in person or via conference call, the meeting will be carried out in their absence. At least 5 out of 8 members need to be present in order for a meeting to be held. Members who are absent may provide the Circle with a written submission for their consideration, if desired.

11.5 Frequency, Type, and Location of Meetings

Meetings will be held virtually or in-person, depending on availability of members, every 2-3 weeks. Meetings held in person, as restrictions on travel and/or gatherings permit, would take place over 1-2 full days and would be less frequent. In-person meetings would be held in the National Capital Region or in another location agreed to between the Agency and Circle members.

11.6 Observers

Depending on the nature of topics being discussed, individuals, organizations, or other government departments may observe a meeting or parts of a meeting. Observers do not provide input on agenda items and do not participate in the formulation of co-developing the final discussion paper.

A limited number of federal employees may be permitted to observe a meeting of the Circle. Priority consideration will be given to those officials whose duties are of relevance to the mandate of the Circle.

11.7 Language of Work

The Circle’s work will be performed in either official language in accordance with the Official Languages Act.

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