By Shari Narine
Sweetgrass Contributing Editor
MIKISEW CREE NATION
July 13, 2016.
Melody Lepine is one of three co-chairs of the province’s newly-established Oil Sands Advisory Group. She is also one of three Indigenous members.
Ministers Shannon Phillips (environment and parks, and climate change office) and Marg McCuaig-Boyd (energy) announced the formation of the new advisory group Wednesday morning.
The OSAG will report to government with advice in three areas: implementing the legislated annual greenhouse gas emission limit; best investments in innovation to reduce GHG emissions intensity in oil sands production; and developing durable, effective structures and processes to address local and regional environmental issues.
“Being in a lead role with the OSAG, I think, is an honourable position,” said Lepine. “It’s sort of sinking in that this is a reality for me, that I’m actually going to be part of a team that is going to be providing very important strategic advice to the provincial government on how to meet those objectives.”
Lepine is a director of government and industry relations for the Mikisew Cree Nation and has been working on oilsands issues for 13 years.
“Climate change and reducing impacts in the region is something I do day to day in my professional career,” she said.
On the OSAG, Lepine represents communities and will bring the “grassroots perspective” to discussions.
“Obviously my specialty is working on Indigenous issues and Indigenous knowledge and values and I think that’s still going to be a key strength for me in participating in the role,” she said.
Woodland Cree First Nation Chief Isaac Laboucan-Avirom and Fort McMurray Metis Local Vice President Bill Louttit have also been appointed to the OSAG as two of 15 plenary members.
Lepine says they are “key players.” She has worked with Louttit for many years and Laboucan-Avirom is former deputy Grand Chief of Treaty 8.
“I’m pretty confident we’re going to bring forward a strong Indigenous voice and perspective on the work that we have to do,” she said.
Lepine adds that more Indigenous members on the OSAG would have been welcomed.
“We would always like more Indigenous participation. That’s one of the things I advocate for. It’s still early to say whether we need more Indigenous voices within the group. But I’m confident we’re going to be a strong voice and work very hard on representing our communities’ and our regions’ interest,” she said.
Joining Lepine as co-chairs are Dave Collyer, representing industry, and Tzeporah Berman, representing environmental non-governmental organizations. Collyer is retired president and CEO of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, while Berman is former co-director of Greenpeace International's Global Climate and Energy Program and co-founder of ForestEthics. Berman’s appointment has come under criticism from the Wildrose Opposition, who have called her an “active anti-pipeline activist” and accused her of sending celebratory tweets in the wake pipeline project defeats.
The advisory group is expected to convene in the next few weeks and deliver advice on the first issue area in six months. A plan for the OSAG members to engage the public on the issues, particularly in oil sands producing areas, is being developed.