“World class” environmental monitoring program loses two more First Nations
Athabasca Chipewyan and Mikisew Cree follow others in withdrawing from program
Tim Querengesser is senior editor with Alberta Venture. Email Tim
by Tim Querengesser
Perhaps it was the Neil Young effect? On Friday, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Mikisew Cree announced that they are leaving the Joint Oil Sands Monitoring program (JOSM) — created in February 2012 and touted as a “world class” program by government — citing vague direction from the Alberta government and Ottawa. The First Nation follows in the footsteps of the Fort McKay Metis and First Nation, which left the monitoring program in October.
“A lot of the issues we have had with JOSM are in the terms of reference for inclusion of First Nations within the program’s mandates,” Eriel Deranger, a spokesperson with the ACFN, told Fort McMurray Today. “Our biggest concern is that under current direction, JOSM does not meaningfully include First Nations, our traditional knowledge, or our treaty rights into its mandate.”
The monitoring program was a key recommendation from a working group in Alberta that looked into how environmental regulation compliance in the oil sands is monitored. That working group sought to tackle transparency challenges on environmental monitoring as well as to create a system that dealt with cumulative environmental impacts rather than just impacts on single projects. While the ambitions may have been lofty, however, it seems the results are less satisfying for First Nations. Indeed, back when Fort McKay announced it was leaving, a Financial Post columnist described the monitoring regime as “a mess.”
The joint monitoring regime is partially funded by the oil industry itself: the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) provides $50 million in funding each year. CAPP has urged Fort McKay to return to the program, according to reports.
Prominent (and recently retired) University of Alberta scientist Dr. David Schindler was highly critical of the predecessors of the JOSM. This led Alberta and Ottawa to make changes. It seems not all are satisfied with the results.