Alberta Utilities Commission decision requiring consultation with Métis Nation of Alberta will protect rights and encourage investment
Posted on: Aug 18, 2021
Edmonton, AB (August 18, 2021) – The Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) has approved the Central East Transfer-Out Transmission Development Project (CETO Project), marking the first time that a regulator in Alberta has acknowledged the province’s duty to consult the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA). The CETO Project is a new double-circuit 240 kilovolt (kV) transmission line running from Red Deer to approximately 45km east of Stettler, supporting the growth of renewable electricity production in central Alberta.
“The CETO Project shows that a clear approach to Métis consultation would directly benefit industry,” said MNA President Audrey Poitras. “The Government of Alberta’s refusal to acknowledge its constitutional duty to consult the MNA when Métis rights are at stake is now in direct conflict with one of its own agencies, creating red tape and confusion. The lesson from the AUC is clear: consultation with the MNA gives industry certainty. That will help put Alberta back to work.”
The MNA is mandated by its over 47,000 registered Métis Nation citizens to conduct consultations with the Crown on behalf of the Métis communities in the province. The province’s Aboriginal Consultation Office did not direct proponents to consult with the MNA about the CETO Project. The MNA intervened in the AUC hearing to ensure that potential impacts on Métis rights, claims, and interests were adequately considered. The AUC found that the CETO Project “may adversely affect the exercise of Métis harvesting or traditional cultural practices in the project area” and therefore “the duty to consult is triggered as it relates to Métis, as represented by the MNA.”
Alberta has policies directing consultation with First Nations and the eight Metis Settlements, but not the MNA, leaving the Métis Nation as the only people Indigenous to Alberta whose rights are not protected by a provincial consultation policy. The MNA has taken the Government of Alberta to court about its decision to break off negotiations of a provincial Métis Consultation Policy. A decision in that matter is pending.
“Our court case shows that Alberta’s own officials admit that the province’s current approach to Métis consultation does not work. The AUC’s decision proves this,” said Poitras. “Consultation is not only a Constitutional obligation, it is also a critical factor in creating certainty for business and for attracting investment to Alberta.”
Unlike the provincial government, Canada requires consultation with the MNA when federally regulated projects may impact Métis rights.
Relying on the Government of Alberta’s advice, one of the proponents, ATCO Electric Ltd. (ATCO), initially made no effort to engage with the MNA. The AUC, however, found that the province had a constitutional obligation to ensure that the MNA was adequately consulted regarding the CETO Project.
ATCO then worked with the MNA throughout the hearing to ensure that Métis rights and interests are protected. The CETO Project will cross Tail Creek, an area of immense historical and cultural significance to the MNA. ATCO committed to having a Métis cultural heritage monitor onsite at the Tail Creek crossing, to conduct additional Historical Resource Impact Assessment activities at this location, and to notify the MNA, subject to the Ministry of Culture and Status of Women’s processes, if Métis historical resources are discovered in the project area. Consultation with the MNA will continue throughout construction.
“The CETO Project is an example of how industry and Indigenous people can work together to build a greener and more prosperous Alberta,” said Poitras. “We call on Alberta to acknowledge its duty to consult the MNA so that all project approvals in the province can be as successful.”
The CETO Project is an electric transmission project in MNA Region 3, running from Red Deer to approximately 45 km east of Stettler. ATCO and AltaLink Management Ltd. will each construct and operate portions of approximately 130-140 km of new double-circuit 240 kV transmission line and upgrade two existing electricity substations.
About the MNA
The MNA was established in 1928 to promote and facilitate the advancement of Métis people in Alberta through self-reliance, self-determination, and self-government. The MNA is governed by a Provincial Council, comprised of a Provincial President and Vice President and six regional Presidents and Vice Presidents, all democratically elected. In June 2019, the MNA and the Government of Canada signed the Métis Government Recognition and Self-Government Agreement, which recognizes the Métis Nation within Alberta’s inherent right to self-government.
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