BC & BC Hydro: Is this what you think reconciliation is?

The BC Government and BC Hydro are undertaking a Phase 2 Review of BC Hydro with the purpose of exploring global energy sectors shifts and provincial strategies that could transform the way BC Hydro does business. . Phase 1 was an internal review. Phase 2 was launched with Terms of Reference involving 3 groups, a Review Committee with high level BC and BC Hydro officials, an Advisory Group of the ADM and VP level of BC and BC Hydro and 5 unnamed Expert Advisors.    

Surprise, surprise, there are no First Nations on any of these three groups. This is a surprise because the review is to look at 4 areas, one being the review of future opportunities or new roles for Indigenous Nations in the development, ownership, or operation of electrical infrastructure or services.  The report is to provide recommendation to enhance Indigenous Nations’ participation in the energy sector.  If 25% of this report is about First Nations, First Nations need to be a major part of putting this report and recommendations together.

First Nations are the experts in what they want and need to participate in the energy sector as First Nations have been building a substantial presence in the clean energy industry over the past 20 years. At least 123 of the 203 First Nations in the province are involved in the clean energy industry in different ways and many of those First Nations have several projects in operation. These projects have provided, revenue, jobs, capacity building, community pride and many beneficial partnerships.

First Nations should have been brought together to address this question of future opportunities and determine their role in the clean energy industry.  It is the First Nations themselves who are the experts, not high-priced consultants that don’t have the expertise, background and experience with First Nations involvement in the industry.  Reading about it and knowing about it on the ground are two different thing.  It is critical to make this report and recommendations something that First Nations can once again play a thriving role in the industry.

You would think the BC Government would have learned to talk directly with First Nations as they created negative relations when they failed to talk with them about the impact of proceeding with Site C dam would do to the aspirations of First Nations in the energy sector.  Only now are they asking how it impacted them when they suspended the Standing Offer Program. It is yet another consultant doing this work, not the Minister or her high ranking officials who would benefit from learning this themselves.  

The process set out in the Terms of Reference is that the report and recommendations will be provided to First Nations once it is complete and ask for their “FEEDBACK”. They don’t use the word consult, nor do they go as far as to say the Free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) which is in the Universal Declaration of Indigenous Rights (UNDRIP). The BC government has committed to implement UNDRIP, TRC and self-determination. In fact, every mandate letter to every Minister Mungall says: 

 “As part of our commitment to true, lasting reconciliation with First Nations in British Columbia our government will be fully adopting and implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), and the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.” 

In order to achieve the FPIC of First Nations, you need to involve them early on and not just give them your ideas and ask them to give feedback. Experience has shown First Nations that their input is rarely reflected in any changes and once it is in writing, little change occurs. First Nations need to be involved from the beginning to the end of a process if there is true relationship building and observance of international law.

The Terms of Reference for Phase 2 states

In support of BC’s commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, the Review will consider future opportunities or new roles for Indigenous Nations in the development, ownership, or operation of electrical infrastructure or services…”

Does BC really believe that reconciliation is that they do the work and then ask First Nations what do you think”. Reconciliation is a process not a final product. It is how you work with First Nations to get your results.  Gone are the old days where you provide the First Nations with a document and ask what do you think? Then you proceed to do whatever you want to do without taking into account First Nations responses. The process established under the Phase 2 review of BC Hydro smacks of this old relationship and way of doing business. This old way is no longer acceptable and in light of this governments promises to implement UNDRIP and the TRC and their legal obligations under the clean Energy Act, it leaves a wide chasm between the old way and the new way of obtaining Free, prior and informed consent. 

In a letter from Chief Patrick Michell of Kanaka Bar to Premier John Horgan dated August 26, 2019 on this matter he states:

“I encourage government to reconsider the process to bring it into alignment with its global and cross ministry stated commitments to work in partnership with Indigenous peoples to advance reconciliation and create shared prosperity.”

Clearly, the process of Phase 2 is not working in partnership, nor is it advancing reconciliation.  

In a letter from the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council to Minister Mungall, Chair of BC Hydro Ken Peterson and CEO of BC Hydro Chris O’Reilly dated August 21, 2019 it states:

“The process of the Phase 2 is flawed in that it does not involve First Nations and is not reflective of the implementation of UNDRIP.  The Minister’s mandate letter states that UNDRIP must be implemented and change needs to be made in how BC and BC Hydro work with First Nations.

…We hope you will change the Terms of Reference to have First Nations being a part of the report and recommendations to make this more in spirit with the mandate letter, UNDRIP and TRC and achieving First Nation self-determination as has been stated by the Premier and Ministers.”

It is time for the BC government to stop working from the top down with First Nations and to positively change how they do business with them.  “Feedback” on something as important as First Nations role in the clean energy industry is weak and unacceptable. Leaving out First Nations on issues that directly affect them is not good enough.

Times have changed. Commitments to implement UNDRIP and self-determination must be taken seriously.  Self-determination means First Nations steer their own course and make decisions on how they want to be involved in the clean energy industry. No committee or experts can steer that canoe and for First Nations to be brought in on the backside of this report shows that this government hasn’t changed. And if this government is serous about reconciliation, they have to do better than this.



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