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Ex-Ring of Fire consultation czar to oversee Trans Mountain Project

Ottawa determined to ‘get it right’ in selecting Iacobucci to steer Indigenous talks
Frank Iacobucci
Former Justice Frank Iacobucci speaking in Sudbury in 2015.

Ontario’s former chief negotiator in the Ring of Fire consultation process has landed a new –but similar – position as Ottawa’s point person on the stalled Trans Mountain Expansion Project.

Retired Supreme Court of Canada Justice Frank Iacobucci has been chosen as the federal representative to oversee consultation with the First Nation and Metis communities impacted by the project.

Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi announced the appointment of Iacobucci on Oct. 3 as Ottawa said it will not be appealing the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision from last August. 

Instead, the government will re-do the consultation process with a third round of talks with the 117 Indigenous groups along the pipeline’s path.

“He (Iacobucci) will initially provide advice on designing the process and will then oversee it to ensure that Indigenous consultations are meaningful and comply with the direction given by the federal court of appeal,” said Sohi in a statement.

“I’m confident that the Phase III consultation process will be better, owing to his expertise and advice working with First Nations in Ontario in the development of the Ring of Fire and as part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.”

The project will triple pipeline capacity between Edmonton and Burnaby, B.C., but it remains on hold pending the completion of consultation and an environmental impact review by the National Energy Board (NEB).

The NEB's report will be submitted to the government by the end of February. It’s not known how long the consultation process will take.

Last August, the court found that Ottawa did meet with Indigenous groups in 2016 but these interactions were not considered formal consultation, only information sessions that did nothing to remedy people’s concerns about the project.

In a news release, government said it will more than double the number of representatives on the ground with clear instructions on how to do meaningful and customized consultation for each Indigenous group.

The government further affirmed it will work with First Nation and Metis communities “and seek their views on how to get Phase III right.”

Iacobucci was either dismissed from, or left, his provincial post last summer after the Ford government took office in June.

He was chosen by the Wynne government to be the province’s lead negotiator in 2013 to consult with the chiefs of the Matawa First Nations in laying the groundwork for development in the Ring of Fire.

His grade is incomplete on whether he was successful in achieving any tangible results in the largely inactive Far North mining project. 

Over time, the confidential Regional Framework Agreement talks appeared to be put on hold as the provincial government changed strategy from trying to achieve consensus with all nine Matawa communities to striking individual agreements with those communities most amenable to industrial development. 

Engineering and environmental assessment studies are now underway on access roads to two of the Matawa communities.