Indigenous Cooperation Agreement Regulations and Policy Approach under the Impact Assessment Act

The Impact Assessment Act (the Act) provides new opportunities for the government to work in partnership with Indigenous peoples.

These include opportunities for new cooperation agreements under which Indigenous governing bodies could exercise certain powers, duties and functions related to federal impact assessments on specified lands. This provides a flexible mechanism for working in partnership with Indigenous peoples in a manner that better aligns with Indigenous governance, stewardship rights and responsibilities.

To enter into these new Indigenous cooperation agreements, regulations must first be in place. The Agency is committed to co-developing the proposed Indigenous Cooperation Agreement Regulations and Policy Approach (the regulations) together with Indigenous peoples.

How is the Agency co-developing these regulations?

The Agency consulted its Indigenous Advisory Committee and national and regional Indigenous representatives on how to co-develop the regulations.

To ensure effective co-development, the Agency will work towards the following goals:

  • Setting clear expectations and common understandings
  • Maintaining a credible process with confidence of communities as well as political leaders
  • Inclusion of regional perspectives and consultation with rights-holders
  • Recognition of distinctions-based and context-specific realities

What is the co-development process for the regulations?

The Agency is following a phased approach for co-developing the regulations.

  • Phase 1: Early engagement

    Between 2016 and 2020, the Agency sought input on the environmental and impact assessment processes from Indigenous organizations and communities in engagement workshops, comment periods and other consultations. This input shaped the development of the Act, which came into force in 2019, and informed its policies and early ideas on the approach for the regulations.

    During this time, the Agency heard about the interests and goals of Indigenous peoples for how project assessments in their territories should be conducted and the role Indigenous peoples should play in assessments. The feedback was analyzed and compiled into the “What We Heard Reports”:

    1. What We Heard Report - Environmental Assessment Review
    2. What We Heard Report - Practitioner’s Guide to Federal Impact Assessments under IAA
    3. What We Heard Report - Crown-Indigenous Collaboration in Federal Impact Assessment

    The Agency considered all of the feedback provided by Indigenous peoples and issued a number of evergreen policies as part of the Practitioner’s Guide to Federal Impact Assessments under the Impact Assessment Act. The Agency will continue to update the guide over time as we receive new input under the Act.

    On the topic of Crown-Indigenous cooperation and collaboration in federal impact assessment, Indigenous peoples across Canada communicated the following key messages:

    • Indigenous laws and value systems need to be considered and incorporated into any cooperative approach
    • Indigenous governance models and protocols must be respected
    • Indigenous peoples need to be involved at all stages of the process (not only in a one-time consultation, but also through ongoing dialogue and relationship building)
  • Phase 2: Engagement on how to co-develop the regulations

    The Agency held discussions with the Indigenous Advisory Committee, as well as national and regional Indigenous representatives, on how to co-develop the regulations. Their advice has been reflected in this approach.

  • Phase 3: Establishing a Circle of Experts

    The Circle of Experts functions as a sub-committee of the Indigenous Advisory Committee. It comprises First Nations, Inuit and Métis, and experts recommended by Indigenous individuals and organizations. The Circle will co-develop a discussion paper, which will inform the national engagement process for the development of the regulations.

    The Agency worked with the Indigenous Advisory Committee to develop criteria and consider potential candidates. The criteria took into account the need to have a range of perspectives and experiences. This included making sure there is gender balance and a range of regional and First Nation, Inuit and Métis membership on the committee.

  • Phase 4: Drafting a discussion paper

    The Circle of Experts and the Agency will co-draft a discussion paper outlining the issues and considerations for potential approaches to Indigenous cooperation agreements under the Act. The discussion paper will provide the basis for the national engagement process.

  • Phase 5: Finalizing the discussion paper and national engagement plan

    As we draft the discussion paper with the Circle of Experts, we will also seek advice from the Indigenous Advisory Committee along with national and regional Indigenous representatives on its content.

  • Phase 6: National consultation and engagement

    Once the discussion paper is finalized, the Agency will conduct national consultation and engagement with Indigenous peoples. The Agency will also engage directly with provincial and territorial governments, industry and other stakeholders.

    National engagement will include regional meetings, workshops and funding for Indigenous peoples to provide written feedback to the Agency on the discussion paper. Feedback will be summarized in a “What We Heard Report,” which will inform the development of the regulations.

  • Phase 7: Developing the proposed regulations

    The Agency will continue to collaborate in the development of the regulatory proposal and supporting policies. The draft regulations will be published online in the Canada Gazette, Part I, for public comment. Justice Canada provides an excellent overview on how new laws and regulations are created.

    Once the regulations have passed, the Agency will continue to work on how to put the regulations into practice, including entering into agreements with Indigenous governing bodies.

Is there funding available to support engagement and participation in the process?

For updates and information on funding opportunities to support engagement, visit our Funding Programs page.

For general information on how Indigenous peoples are involved in impact assessment, please visit the Participation of Indigenous Peoples in Impact Assessment page.

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