Information About Aboriginal people
The National Energy Board (NEB) is a federal regulator that considers, among other things, requests from companies to construct and operate: (1) pipelines that run between provinces or into the United States; and (2) some international and interprovincial power lines. Other NEB responsibilities include regulating exploration activity north of the 60o line of latitude (north of 60). When it considers whether a project should be approved, the NEB acts in a quasi-judicial role, which means that it operates in many ways like a court and independently from government. The NEB often holds public hearings to help it decide whether particular projects can be built. If the NEB decides that a project can be built, it may also set conditions the company must meet in order to build and operate the project. Generally, the conditions can pertain to any part of the project and may address a variety of environmental and socio-economic concerns. If you would like more general information on the NEB, please see Chapter 1: Introduction to the NEB from the Guide for Landowners and the Public.
What is the NEB hearing process? How can I get involved?
NEB hearings are public processes. This means that any person or group with an interest in a proposed project may ask to participate in the NEB process related to that project. The NEB encourages potentially impacted Aboriginal groups to participate in the review process for the project. The NEB requires companies to consult with potentially impacted Aboriginal groups early in the project planning and design phases, when it is easiest for the company to respond to concerns raised by Aboriginal groups. The NEB also encourages Aboriginal people or groups with concerns about proposed projects to contact companies and ask company representatives to come and talk to their community about the project. This should be done as early as possible after learning about a proposed project. Further project information can be obtained by attending company open houses, calling company information lines and visiting project-related websites.
While Aboriginal groups are encouraged to raise their concerns about a project with the company, Aboriginal groups may bring any outstanding concerns or views about the project directly to the attention of the NEB through the hearing process. These could include concerns about how the Project may impact Aboriginal communities, the use of traditional territory, and any potential or established Treaty or Aboriginal rights. The NEB will take all relevant concerns into account when determining whether a project can go ahead and what conditions to place on the NEB's approval of the project. Aboriginal groups may participate in the NEB hearing process in several ways, ranging from more formal written options to less formal oral statements. The participation options are described in the National Energy Board Hearing Process Handbook and documentation. You are not required to have a lawyer to participate in an NEB hearing.
Ceremonies or other traditional practices may be integrated into a hearing process at the request of Aboriginal participants. For example, pipe ceremonies have been used to affirm evidence provided by Elders. Suggestions made by both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal hearing participants are considered in choosing hearing location and timing in order to make the hearing as accessible as possible.
It is important that Aboriginal groups bring any concerns or views they may have about a proposed project to the NEB's attention through the hearing process. Since it is a quasi-judicial tribunal and works much like a court, the NEB can only consider information that has been placed on its public record when making a decision. This makes Aboriginal participation in NEB hearings especially important because, beyond the hearing process, the NEB cannot take part in one-on-one discussions with anyone about a project application that is being considered by the Board. In addition, the NEB understands that Crown consultation is an issue of interest to Aboriginal groups. In recent hearings, the Crown has stated that it will rely on the NEB process to the extent possible to meet any duty it may have to consult with Aboriginal groups.
Will there be funding provided to cover my costs?
Taking part in an NEB hearing can require some time and expense for participants. The NEB offers modest participant funding through its Participant Funding Program (PFP) to help with the costs of participation. Funding is available for those eligible parties who register as an intervenor in an oral facility hearing. This program provides some financial assistance to support the timely and meaningful engagement of Aboriginal groups and others in the oral hearing process for proposed facility projects. Funding must be applied for and the guide and forms are available on the NEB's website or by contacting the NEB toll free at 1-800-899-1265.
What if there is not a hearing? Can I still participate?
Project reviews that do not automatically require a hearing can still involve the public. Individuals or groups may still submit a letter of comment in relation to the project to the Board. Sometimes projects under this category generate a lot of interest from the public and a public hearing (oral or written) may be held.