JEDI’s afternoon session at the October 2014 Plenary was an informal discussion surrounding 2 successful relationships between First Nations communities and industry in New Brunswick. Both relationships are at different stages but both have also resulted in some key lessons learned.
Pabineau First Nation and Eel River Bar First Nation each have their own experiences involving industry and are outlined below:
The First Nation of Pabineau has an agreement in place with Trevali Mining Corporation and this has resulted in 95% employment in Pabineau according to Terry Richardson, band councillor and ETO in Pabineau and liaison between Trevali mines and Pabineau First Nation.
When Trevali Mining first started discussions with Pabineau, each side had their own agenda but luckily Trevali was willing to talk and that made it easier for each side to negotiate and come up with a mutually beneficial agreement. One part of the agreement states that 20% of all those employed at the mine will be First Nation people.
“By January 2015, the plan is to have 50 First Nation people working at the mine, which is 27% of those employed,” said Terry. “There is a requirement on the First Nation side to provide candidates that are educated and prepared to fill positions. If we can give our community member’s opportunities then we can change the poverty in the community. Even if the mine is only there for 10 years, after the mine, the people will still be skilled and trained and will be able to take these skills elsewhere.”
The negotiation process wasn’t just about employment though. Pabineau expressed their concerns about the local rivers when mine development started. As a result, there are no tailing ponds at Halfmile mine. An agreement was made that the wastewater from the mine would be trucked out of the area and therefore not affect the nearby rivers.
Terry stressed the importance of taking the time needed in negotiations with industry.
“We are an equal participant when we sit at the table with industry,” said Terry. “Industry is starting to realize that. In the past, they forgot that the engagement process takes time. They forgot about the relationship part. Before they were worried about deadlines and now they are willing to engage and start the process earlier.”
Terry also shared that the discussion needs to be open and that negotiations need to consider the long-term effects on the community and the people within the community.
“Go in with an open mind,” said Terry. “Negotiate. Some things are negotiable but be open to the discussion. Employment is key but it must be responsible. What can industry leave behind as a legacy? First Nations need to ask for something in return, what can be negotiated long-term? It’s important to be informed and have the relationship in place so that the communication is there.”
Terry feels that the First Nation communities in New Brunswick should work together when possible when dealing with industry.
“Development can be shared with other First Nation communities,” said Terry. “We can work together, as a group, and then we’ll be unstoppable. It is easy to divide and conquer but if we unite and work together, we can benefit. If there is more than one First Nation involved, someone has to take the lead but you need to share the benefits.”
Pabineau First Nation is pleased that working with industry has not only provided them solid skills and employment opportunities in their community but that these skills bode well for the future of their people.
In July 2013, NB Power and the First Nation of Eel River Bar began talks on the decommissioning of the generating station in that area. After lengthy discussions and negotiations they were finally able to come up with 11 points of concern that needed to be addressed in order to move forward in a way that was acceptable to both parties.
Both sides feel that some important lessons have been learned.
According to Charles Harn, Council member of Eel River Bar, ‘duty to consult’ means that industry has to consult at the same level as First Nation people.
“If industry has experts on their side, then First Nation communities need to be provided expertise on their side as well,” said Charles. “During initial conversations, NB Power had people with technical expertise present at the discussions and Eel River Bar did not have that. Eel River Bar realized that in order to be fairly represented an engineering firm could help them determine how to get the most out of the relationship.”
Eel River Bar proceeded to hire someone to design a Miqmaq Ecological Knowledge study and hired legal counsel to help ensure their concerns would be met. All of this resulted in 11 points that needed to be addressed. Once the 11 points were determined, then things really moved forward; jobs and environmental concerns were deliberated.
Andrea Allen, Director First Nation Affairs & Ombudsman at NB Power, agreed that the relationship between NB Power and Eel River Bar has really grown and become positive.
“In the negotiations, we used collaborative problem solving so that we could come up with mutually beneficial agreements,” said Andrea. “Even when we’re all in agreement, things take a lot of time. The value of having the relationship and knowing each other is important.”
Charles echoed the sentiments on relationships.
“Respectfulness, sincerity and a willingness will help you get to where you need to go,” said Charles. “It doesn’t end with the agreement. You have to manage the agreement and continue building and growing the relationship.”
Charles also noted that industry must have true cultural awareness when participating in negotiations. It needs to be something that is a mantra within the organization. They need to know both the community’s culture and concerns. The First Nation community needs to bring questions to the table concerning the opportunities available and the environmental concerns that need to be addressed.
Andrea stressed the fact that it is important to get to know one another in order to have successful relationships.
“Networking opportunities are a great way to start building report,” said Andrea. “It’s important to have a cup of tea and have discussions. Respect both ways is really important, trust that you are both there for the same reason. Find common ground to build respect. And always respond to questions.”
As a result of all of their hard work, NB Power and Eel River Bar now have a solid foundation for moving forward and both sides feel that real progress has been made.