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Indigenous consultation and engagement

At the CNSC, we recognize and understand the importance of consulting and building relationships with Indigenous Nations and communities in Canada, and we are taking concrete steps towards working with them to ensure the safe and effective regulation of nuclear energy and materials. 

Duty to consult

The Government of Canada has a duty to consult and, where appropriate, accommodates Indigenous Nations and communities when it considers conduct that might adversely impact potential or established Indigenous or treaty rights. The duty to consult is an important part of the CNSC’s activities, including for licensing and for decision making in environmental reviews. 

We ensure that all licensing decisions and environmental reviews under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act (NSCA), the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, the Impact Assessment Act, or other relevant legislation uphold the honour of the Crown and consider Indigenous Nations’ and communities’ potential or established Indigenous or treaty rights pursuant to section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 (together, the "Indigenous interests"). 

Coordinated approaches

Where our quasi-judicial functions allow, we support a whole-of-government approach to Indigenous consultation. Our staff will coordinate consultative efforts, where feasible, with other federal, provincial, and/or territorial regulatory departments and agencies through a one-window approach with respect to environmental reviews and licensing activities. 

Consultation requirements for the environmental review and licensing processes

To fulfill the Crown’s duty to consult and accommodate, we ensure that Indigenous Nations and communities have meaningful opportunities to participate in all aspects of the environmental review and licensing processes. As Canada’s nuclear lifecycle regulator, we recognize that consultation activities, such as engagement on the implementation of mitigation, follow-up and monitoring measures, may continue beyond an environmental review or licensing process. 

At the CNSC, we ensure that meaningful collaborative approaches to consultation and engagement support the principles of reconciliation. Once project notification letters have been sent out and followed up with phone calls, our consultation and engagement process may include the following activities, depending on the type of project and the level of interest among Indigenous Nations and communities: 

  • immediately sharing information about a licensee’s proposed project with all identified Indigenous Nations and communities, including a description of the regulatory process, information about timelines and about funding opportunities, and an offer to meet for further discussion
  • collaboratively developing a community-specific consultation plan and relationship arrangement
  • meeting in person and virtually with representatives, communities and/or leadership to listen, learn about issues, seek solutions, and identify collaborative ways of bringing those issues before the Commission
  • participating in and coordinating community workshops and open houses, information sessions, and/or webinars
  • discussing issues, concerns and topics of interest and working to address them
  • considering and reflecting Indigenous Knowledge in the CNSC’s assessments and regulatory processes, which can include co-drafting key sections of environmental reports
  • reviewing a licensee’s documents, including the environmental impact statement, to ensure that they meet all the requirements of REGDOC-3.2.2, Indigenous Engagement
  • providing information on a proposed project’s potential impacts on Indigenous rights and interests and offering to collaboratively complete a rights impact assessment that will be included in CNSC staff submissions to the Commission
  • discussing and exploring potential mitigation, offset, avoidance, and accommodation measures to address the potential impacts on identified rights and interests and ensuring that licensees document these measures in their submissions
  • collaboratively drafting sections of the CNSC’s environmental assessment reports and Commission member documents
  • offering Indigenous Nations and communities the opportunity to participate in Commission proceedings via a written and/or oral submission
  • offering funding opportunities through the Participant Funding Program to support Indigenous Nations and communities in participating in the above activities

We are committed to reconciliation and to continuously improving our approach to consultation with Indigenous Nations and communities.

Expectations and requirements of licensees and applicants for Indigenous engagement

In 2016, the first version of  REGDOC-3.2.2, Indigenous Engagement, was published. It sets out requirements and guidance for licensees and applicants whose proposed projects may raise the Crown’s duty to consult. 

While we cannot delegate our obligation, we can delegate procedural aspects of the consultation process to licensees where appropriate. In many cases, licensees are best positioned to collect information and propose any appropriate additional measures to avoid, mitigate or offset adverse impacts on Indigenous rights and interests, and we may use such measures in meeting our consultation obligations. 

Support for the meaningful participation of Indigenous Nations and communities

There are established tools and mechanisms to help support Indigenous Nations and communities in participating meaningfully in regulatory activities, including:

  • the Participant Funding Program (PFP), which includes funding support for:
    • meetings with CNSC staff on topics of regulatory interest
    • participation in environmental monitoring programs
    • Indigenous knowledge and land use studies, where applicable
  • the Indigenous and Stakeholder Capacity Fund (ISCF), which will help Indigenous Nations and communities, as well as stakeholders, build the capacity necessary to engage in the CNSC’s regulatory processes prior to and throughout the lifecycle of nuclear facilities and activities in Canada in a variety of ways. The purpose of the Indigenous and Stakeholder Capacity Fund is to:
    • develop and support the organizational capacity of Indigenous Nations and communities and public stakeholders to participate in and contribute to the CNSC’s regulatory processes, programs, policies and initiatives more meaningfully
    • support building relationships and trust with the CNSC through collaboration with Indigenous Nations and communities and public stakeholders
  • translation of Commission proceedings into Indigenous languages, where appropriate
  • open houses and "Meet the Nuclear Regulator" sessions in Indigenous communities, upon request
  • outreach in Indigenous Nations and communities, including schools
  • provision, in a timely and effective way, of relevant information to Indigenous communities, including making experts available to answer questions from Indigenous communities upon request
  • means for Indigenous Nations, communities and individuals to appear before the Commission through oral interventions in relation to any public Commission proceeding

Indigenous knowledge

Indigenous knowledge has made, and continues to make, valuable contributions to our environmental assessments and regulatory processes. Indigenous ways of knowing and cultural context enhance the understanding of potential impacts of projects and strengthen the rigour of project reviews and regulatory oversight. 

We strive to collaborate with Indigenous Nations and communities to ensure that Indigenous knowledge is appropriately protected, managed, considered and reflected in regulatory activities, including the integration of Indigenous knowledge into our regulatory work where appropriate. 

We have implemented an Indigenous Knowledge Policy Framework that articulates our overall approach to effectively working with Indigenous Nations and communities and their knowledge. 

Related links

For more information about our approach to Indigenous consultation, engagement and reconciliation, please contact us.

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