Review board needs new members
Northern News Services
Federal representative Bernadette Stewart and Sahtu representative Danny Bayha's terms expired in October and they have left the board.
At the same time Deh Cho member Percy Hardisty, who has been on a leave of absence since 2004 taking part in the Joint Review Panel examining the socio-economic affects of the proposed Mackenzie Valley pipeline, also had his term run out in October.
The net result is that the review board has only two aboriginal members.
That's the minimum number it needs to function, said Vern Christensen, the board's executive director.
"It's a risk factor," he said. "If we had one of our aboriginal members who couldn't participate...the board wouldn't be able to meet."
It wouldn't take something as serious as an illness or death to stall an individual assessment either, he said.
"If we had a referral where an aboriginal member had an appearance of bias or a conflict of interest, we wouldn't be able to make a decision."
Christensen added the board notifies all parties involved four months prior to a term expiring.
"We're not sure where the bottleneck is," he said.
While Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Jim Prentice was not available for comment, his press secretary Deidre McCracken said the appointment decisions are currently in his hands.
"The minister is taking the time that he feels is appropriate," she said.
"The process is moving along...the minister wants to ensure he has the best people slotted into those positions as possible."
She declined to identify the nominees currently being considered and said that would only happen once they are approved by Prentice.
The review board currently has seven active environmental assessment files and two active environmental impact reviews, said Mary Tapsell, manager of environmental impact assessment.
Christensen confirmed that none of these would put any of its members in a conflict of interest.
Tapsell added recent criticism over the review process in the North isn't exactly fair.
"Industry may say it's a convoluted process, but it's not always the board that's to blame," she said.
The Deh Cho geotechnical survey proposed by Imperial Oil, for example, has been awaiting federal ministerial approval in Ottawa for two years now, she said.