Changes to B.C.’s environmental assessment system will “greatly enhance” Indigenous participation in resource development decisions, Environment Minister George Heyman says.
Heyman introduced legislation Monday to change the Environment Assessment Office procedures, describing them as a step to fulfil the NDP’s promise to incorporate the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.
“Having Indigenous collaboration from the beginning means a more certain and efficient process where good projects can move forward more quickly, providing benefits to Indigenous peoples while respecting their rights, values and culture,” Heyman said.
The overhaul is another feature of the minority NDP government’s agreement with the B.C. Green Party.
“It is vital to modernize the environmental assessment process so that important considerations like climate change, cumulative impacts and new scientific standards are properly incorporated,” said Sonia Furstenau, B.C. Green MLA for Cowichan Valley.
Heyman told reporters there will be consultation over the next year to determine how Indigenous participation will take place.
“What we’re not going to do is determine for Indigenous peoples how they organize themselves politically, or try to decide for ourselves who has the greatest strength of claim,” Heyman said. “We’re asking Indigenous nations to come forward and identify their interest, and if there is overlapping jurisdiction or disagreement around a project, we will build in dispute resolution processes to work our way through those.”