Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr says the federal government will accommodate Indigenous communities on concerns about energy projects, but wouldn't go as far as to say the communities will have a veto.
In an interview with Evan Solomon, host of CTV's Question Period, Carr said the federal government's obligations are to "meaningfully consult" and to accommodate Indigenous communities on issues like pipelines.
"We understand that there is importance in understanding the values that Indigenous communities place particularly on their relationship with the land, the air and the water," Carr said.
"We are respectful of that, we are respectful of their rights, and we will conduct our negotiations with them and our consultations in that spirit."
Asked specifically whether that gives First Nations a veto over any project, Carr wouldn't say yes or no, referring to recent court decisions that help set out parameters for accommodation.
"Our goal as a government, in a spirit of reconciliation, is to have these conversations with Indigenous peoples that lead to what I think is a common objective, and that is the kind of respect for our relationship with the land that all natural resource projects will have to encompass," Carr said.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde couldn’t be reached for comment, but in the past has said the government has to give Indigenous people the right to say no.
In a separate interview, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark said those recent court decisions allow projects to go ahead if the provincial and federal governments have worked with Indigenous groups.
"In Canada right now we work really hard to get consent and the court has been really clear," Clark told Solomon.
"If we work hard to get consent and work to accommodate, we can move ahead with projects without it at the end of the day. And I think it's really important that Canadians as a whole ... can make sure projects go ahead even sometimes when some people oppose them."
Open to carbon price increase in 2018
Clark said the laws on consent and consultation are changing.
"It really means that we're going to be back into a period where we spend decades in court trying to figure out what those laws mean. In the meantime, we need to be getting on with improving the living conditions for First Nation communities," she said.
The federal government approved a liquefied natural gas pipeline last week that critics say will make it much harder to meet Canada's goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions. It also means British Columbia will miss its 2020 targets for cutting emissions, Clark allowed, although the province will cut its emissions overall because of more than $100 million in reforestation, green building and transit projects.
"All of the experts have told us it is not just carbon tax and carbon pricing that fight climate change," she said.
"In fact, it can't do it alone.... So when you look at the suite of things that we want to do, that we will do, we will see even with LNG a reduction in our emissions."
As federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna prepares to meet her provincial and territorial counterparts this fall to push for a national carbon price, Clark said she wants to see the other provinces catch up to British Columbia, which has had a $30 per tonne price since 2012. That price is frozen until 2018, but Clark says the province would consider an increase then - if the revenue goes back to British Columbians through a tax cut.
"After 2018, if everybody has caught up to B.C.'s level, we can start thinking about raising it together," she said. It works because "we keep all that money within our local economy and we keep life affordable for people."