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Conference 2019 Pigeonhole Questions Answered

During the 2019 Conference on April 5, we received many great questions through the Pigeonhole Live Q&A platform. Our speakers worked their way through a few of the questions, but many more went unanswered. We followed up with a few of the speakers to try and sort through some of the lingering questions, and we'll catalogue their responses here.

The first question we followed up on was from Session 3A: Federal Legislation Changes. The question was:

In the absence of certainty on what will happen to Bill C-69, has anything changed in the practical aspects of the existing federal EA process and associated consultation processes?

Lisa Walls, Director General of Operations West, CEAA, kindly supplied the following response:

"The proposed Impact Assessment Act in Bill C-69 builds upon a number of approaches that are currently undertaken either as best practice or a requirement of CEAA 2012. Examples include early planning and outreach work, engaging the public in project reviews, cooperation with other jurisdictions, regulatory timelines, consideration of Indigenous knowledge, recognition of Indigenous rights, and collaboration with Indigenous groups. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency will continue to work on developing policies and practices to support and improve environmental assessment in Canada while the proposed legislation goes through the parliamentary process. In addition, we are not waiting for the new legislation to make improvements to the current process. Activities are underway to advance certain elements of the proposed Impact Assessment Act, such as: co-drafting sections of environmental assessment reports with Indigenous groups in B.C., launching a regional assessment of offshore oil and gas exploratory drilling East of Newfoundland and Labrador, piloting early planning with Project Gazoduc in Quebec, and piloting an integrated review with the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board for the Bay du Nord Development Project."

Another question we checked on was from Session 5: Indigenous Relations: Learning from the Past for the Future:

Given the complicated governance structure that First Nations have, how can a Registered Professional Biologist know if they are consulting with the appropriate First Nations people?

Christina Clarke, Executive Director, Songhees Nation, took the time to give some great advice:

"The first stop should always be the band office. All First Nations have a Chief and Council, be they elected under Canadian law (Indian Act or First Nations Election Act) or under customary law, such as hereditary chiefs. These leaders pass resolutions and sign documents, lawfully on behalf of the Nation. Sometimes there is an elected Chief and Council and also hereditary leaders, and or knowledge keepers who are recognized as having influence on decisions in their area of expertise.

In a well functioning community, these leaders all work together. The Council calls regular meetings, has advisory committees, seeks input from elders and youth and generally has good community engagement practices. In communities that are struggling, there can be a disconnect between ‘the band office’ and the membership. If the relationships are not strong, decisions are contentious and there is mistrust. Sometimes there is lateral violence - oppressed people sometimes respond by lashing out at one another. The band office can be a proxy for government in general and people focus their discontent on their leadership.

Seek consultation with the Chief and Council and ask them if there are other groups in the community that should be consulted. Offer to host an open house or attend a community meeting if you want your message to reach a broader audience in the community. Advance research of websites and news media can help you get a sense of how a community is functioning."

One of the most engaging panels during the conference was Session 1: Defining Public Interest: What are we protecting? The nature of the question was addressed from both general and specific perspectives, including this question about wildfires:

The use of glycophosphate spraying of Aspen and othe non-economically viable timber is perpetuating the spread of wildfires. When will this conflict of interest be addressed?

We asked Kevin Kriese, Chair, Forest Practices Board take this one on:

"Aspen and some other species are now included as acceptable species in wildfire stocking standards because they are less flammable or more resistant to fire. What is now required is the broader adoption of wildfire stocking standards so that future forests are less prone to burning. Once a wildfire stocking standard is adopted, then silviculture treatments can be designed to allow those species to make up part of the future forest."​

We turn now to a matter that affects the credentialling of practitioners of applied biology, a topic that was addressed during Session 2: Professional Governance: What's Changing for You?

What will you do if some of those unregistered individuals who have been working for years calling themselves biologists are, truly in fact, not qualified or fully competent?

The College's Registrar & Director of Compliance Derek Marcoux discussed his Office's approach to registering applicants:

"The College has initiated a Credentials Task Force to address issues such as described above. The task force is considering pathways for registration that ensure entrance standards are maintained while also protecting the public interest. If applicants are still not qualified through new pathways, they may require additional upgrading to meet the entrance requirements."

Another question related to credentialling that arose during Session 2: Professional Governance: What's Changing for You? was in regards to traditional ecological knowledge holders:

Will traditional ecological knowledge be integrated into scope of practice definitions? If so, will traditional ecological knowledge holders need to become registered professionals?

It's a question that College Registrar & Director of Compliance Derek Marcoux is considering with current categories of membership:

"The Applied Biology Technician (ABT) category of membership allows for applications to be considered solely on work experience through Stream 3. There is potential that this stream could be used to determine if traditional ecological knowledge holders meet the criteria for registration as an ABT."

Completing the round-up of questions relating to Session 2: Professional Governance: What's Changing for You?, we had a question about fieldwork by lay people and traditional ecological knowledge holders as environmental monitors:

For years, industrial projects conducted in BC were required to train/engage First Nation people to work on projects. Many of the First Nation persons have no formal education and are being trained as Environmental Monitor (construction monitoring and wildlife surveys) by the contractor. As field environmental managers, what is the scope of a First Nation/or layperson working in the environmental field without us, RPBio(s), ending up in a non-compliance situation?

Derek Marcoux, Registrar & Director of Compliance at the College prepared this answer:

"The First Nations/layperson would first have to be a member of CAB in order for us to have any jurisdiction. If they were a member, it would depend on whether they would be an RBTech or an ABT. If an RBTech, we do have a defined scope of independent practice set out in the College Rules. If they are an ABT, the scope has not yet been defined; however all practicing members must work within their competencies and are all subject to the College Code of Ethics.

The College is actively working with training providers to accredit post-secondary institutions and trainers so that the core competencies to qualify as an ABT are met through the training. This ensures that all practitioners that work as field monitors have the required training and experience to carry out the tasks and duties to protect the public interest."

We'll update this page when more responses become available.