Cullen calls for more transparency on First Nations consultation

OTTAWA– Nathan Cullen criticized the Harper government for its lack of transparency regarding First Nations consultation on energy projects today. In March, the Prime Minister appointed Douglas Eyford as Special Federal Representative for West Coast Energy Infrastructure, with the goal of engaging First Nations in consultations about energy projects, but the government has since been tight-lipped about the specifics of Mr. Eyford’s mandate and activities.

A cornerstone of Mr. Eyford’s mandate is to deliver two reports to the Prime Minister on his engagement with First Nations. However, when Cullen requested a copy of the report sent to the Prime Minister on June 28, 2013 under the Access to Information Act, the government refused, saying the report falls under a section of the Act which prohibits even the Information Commissioner of Canada from viewing it.

“This isn’t a national security document or a top-secret report about ongoing military operations. This report is supposed to represent the efforts taken by the government to reach out to First Nations and hear their concerns and their goals.”

Cullen suggested that reasons for optimism about Mr. Eyford’s appointment are lost when the government won’t let the public see the results of his consultations. “It’s not very reassuring. In March, the Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver was in Terrace grandstanding about how inclusive and meaningful and tangible this process would be, but six months later it seems like the entire process is being kept under lock and key,” Cullen added.

He also noted that several other access-to-information requests to Natural Resources Canada pertaining to Mr. Eyford’s mandate and consultations have been subject to lengthy delays, and those which do receive a response are so heavily redacted they are rendered useless.

“Is this how they win First Nations and the public over, with secrecy and suppression?” asked Cullen.

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Contact: Hugh Pouliot (613) 993-8662 nathan.cullen.a1@parl.gc.ca