Update: July 2, 2015
Chapter Two: First Nations’ Resource Policies, was written prior to the development and adoption of the Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw (NStQ) Mining Policy.
A joint effort with the Fair Mining Collaborative, the NStQ Mining Policy was adopted in November of 2014 by the NStQ Leadership Council, (made up of Tsq’escen’, Stswecem’c/Xgat’tem, Xat’sull, and T’exelc First Nations). It incorporates many provisions from Fair Mining Practices: A New Mining Code for British Columbia, and is, we believe, the best policy of its kind in the world. Interested researchers should consult the NStQ Mining Policy, found in our resources section, in addition to this chapter.
Communities from around the world have formulated policies that assist in their responses to industrial activities within, and surrounding, their communities. For many First Nations in BC, resource development on their traditional territories is a major issue. Chapter 2: First Nations’ Resource Policies discusses the contents of innovative resource policies developed by a number of First Nations to help assert more control over how resources are managed on their lands.
By establishing resource policies, First Nations can clearly inform proponents and other levels of government of their interests and expectations. For example, resource policies can set out appropriate consultation processes and terms and conditions to attach to exploration applications and mine permits. These policies can also guide First Nations’ staff in the review of mining proposals and the protection of the traditional territory before and during mine operations.
First Nations’ resource policies generally begin by specifying the objectives or purpose that a First Nation wants to achieve through its policy. Some commonly stated objectives are to promote collaborative decision-making, protect or minimize harm to the environment and provide social and economic benefits to First Nations communities.
Principles to guide decision-making by First Nations’ governments are also often included in resource policies. These guiding principles are essentially standards to be applied when evaluating proposed resource developments. Below are examples of guiding principles from First Nations’ resource policies:
- Meaningful Consultation: Resource policies often define what consultation means from a particular First Nation’s perspective. Consultation may be defined broadly, for example, as a two-way dialogue that facilitates the exchange of information to assist in making fully informed decisions. It may also be given a very detailed definition that includes, for example, specific requirements regarding notice, funding to retain appropriate expertise, and full disclosure of the effects of the proposed project.
- Consistency with First Nations’ Land-use Plans: Land-use plans are a tool First Nations can use to identify what parts of their traditional territories are necessary or suitable for different activities. First Nations who have a land-use plan can include guiding principles in resource policies requiring consideration of whether proposed projects are consistent with that plan.
- Protection of Cultural Activities and Heritage: Some resource policies include guiding principles to ensure social and cultural sustainability and protection of cultural heritage sites. For example, a policy may require that projects do not interfere with or create obstacles to the transmission of land-based culture and practices to future generations.
- Environmental Stewardship: Many First Nations’ resource policies include environmental stewardship (sometimes called environmental sustainability) as a guiding principle. For example, the Ta’an Kwach’an Council Lands and Resources Act adopted the polluter pays principle, under which the proponent will not be released from its legal obligations until a First Nations land steward conducts a site visit, confirms compliance with all terms and conditions attached to resource licences and issues a letter of clearance.
- Socio-Economic Benefits: First Nations’ resource policies commonly set out principles regarding social and economic benefits. These principles may be set out broadly, such as by requiring that any mining activity have a positive financial impact on the First Nation. They may also contain specific provisions, such as requiring that proponents conduct interviews at First Nations’ community offices and schedule work rotations to allow employees to take part in traditional cultural practices. The social and economic benefits outlined in First Nations’ resource policies are often divided into “Employment and Business Opportunities” and “Financial Benefits and Compensation”.
- Intergenerational Equity: Similar to the principle of sustainability (below), this principle requires that the present generation not act in a way that jeopardizes the well-being of future generations. An intergenerational equity principle may include requiring scaling back the pace of development within a traditional territory to ensure that wealth associated from mineral extraction will be available for future generations, and establishing trusts to preserve capital paid under impact benefits agreements for the benefit of future generations.
- Sustainability: Rather than identifying different cultural, environmental, social, and economic principles, many First Nations’ resource policies organize their guiding principles around the concept of sustainability. Sustainability involves consideration of economic, environmental and socio-cultural factors, such as the management of natural resources without compromising the needs of future generations, conservation of cultural and spiritual values and traditions, ecological conservation and restoration of damaged ecosystems.
Operational principles are also often found in First Nations’ resource policies. These explain how First Nations’ decision-making processes will be implemented. Many First Nations explicitly recognize the need to use traditional knowledge and incorporate it into planning, management and operational decisions in a manner acceptable to the community.
First Nations’ resource policies provide a means by which First Nations can articulate and communicate their goals, values and decision-making processes to proponents and to other government agencies. These policies can also help clarify internal decision-making and information-sharing processes within a First Nations community.
Each resource policy will be unique to each First Nations community. These policies can serve to promote shared-decision making by First Nations on the management and development of land and resources within their traditional territories.