Northwest Territories Devolution Act: Coming Into Force

Schedule for Coming into Force:

As of March 25, 2014, upon Royal Assent of Bill C-15, Northwest Territories Devolution Act, a number of key provisions came into force. On April 1, 2014, many of the Northwest Territories Waters Act provisions were imported into the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act.

An order in council, anticipated approximately one year after Royal Assent (Spring 2015), will bring into force provisions that restructure the land and water boards in the Mackenzie Valley. As well, provisions to allow for regional studies and regulation-making authorities for consultation and cost recovery will come into force.

An order in council, anticipated approximately two years after Royal Assent (Spring 2016), will bring into force enforceable development certificates and an administrative monetary penalties regime.

Projects undergoing environmental assessment or environmental impact reviews:

One of the key improvements to the Northwest Territories' regulatory regime is the introduction of beginning-to-end time limits for the review of proposed developments. The new time limits apply to both new environmental assessment and environmental impact reviews and those already underway on March 25, 2014, the day that the time limits came into force. For projects already in the review process, the time limits started from zero, on March 25, 2014, the day that the time limit provisions came into force, regardless of when the initial application was made.

All new projects will be subject to the enforcement and development certificate provisions in Part 5 of the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act following the ratification of an Order-in-Council, anticipated for Spring 2016. When these provisions come into force, development proposals subject to Part 5 or already before a body conducting a preliminary screening, an environmental assessment or environmental impact review would continue to be subject to Part 5 as it existed prior to the enforcement and development certificate provisions coming into force.

Incorporation of Northwest Territories Waters Act provisions into the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act:

As part of devolution, on April 1, 2014, the Northwest Territories Waters Act will be mirrored in territorial legislation and the federal Act repealed by the Government of Canada. However, since the federal government will maintain some land in the Northwest Territories and responsibilities for the remediation of some contaminated sites, many of the provisions of the Northwest Territories Waters Act will be incorporated into the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act to allow the federal government to properly administer waters on federal land.

For the inspection of water use and deposits of waste in federal areas, inspectors under the Northwest Territories Waters Act will be deemed as inspectors under the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act.As well, with respect to federal lands and federally-managed contaminated sites, any orders issued under the Northwest Territories Waters Act and any interests or licences reserved from disposition by an order of the Governor in Council will continue to apply after the repeal of that Act, as if those orders were issued under the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act.

The Northwest Territories Water Regulations will continue to be in force in the Mackenzie Valley in federal areas under the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act. In addition, the fees and public register provisions set out in Northwest Territories Water Regulations will continue to apply to both federal and non-federal areas until new regulations are put into place.

Land and Water Board Restructuring:

One of the major changes under the Northwest Territories Devolution Act is the continuation of the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board as the sole land and water board in the Mackenzie Valley.  Restructuring of the land and water boards will remove the Gwich'in, Sahtu, and Wek'eezhii Land and Water Boards as regional panels of the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board. A single, integrated board to manage land and water usage in the Mackenzie Valley will support consistent, informed decision-making and a strong, effective and efficient regulatory regime. It is anticipated that this restructuring will take place in Spring 2015.

Once an Order-in-Council brings the board restructuring provisions in the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act into force, the members of the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board and the regional panels will cease to be members of the former boards, but will be eligible for reappointment by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to the restructured Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board.

All applications for licences, permits and authorizations and any proceedings or applications before a body under the former Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act will be transferred to the restructured Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board. As well, all employees, agents, rights and property of the regional panels will be transferred to the new Board.

If, when board restructuring takes force, an application is before the current Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board or one its panels, the new Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board will assume its administration. Where an application is pending before the current Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board or one its panels at the final decision-making stage*, the members charged with making a decision on the application will, for continuity, continue temporarily as ‘deemed members' to the newly restructured land and water board for the purpose of making a final decision on the application. This will ensure that the transition does not cause duplication delays or additional costs to the proponent due to restarting the hearing and/or decision-making process.

* Pending the final decision-making phase means: a final public hearing notice has been posted and the Board/panel is about to hear final evidence in final public hearings, or about to make a decision based on evidence/ testimony heard during final public hearings.

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