When major projects are proposed in their territories, rather than treated as governments with decision making authority, the Crown tends to treat First Nations like any other stakeholder in the environmental assessment process. This paper discusses the Squamish Nation process, which was designed to parallel Crown environmental assessment processes and ensure project impacts on the Nation’s rights and title interests are understood and properly avoided or mitigated. The paper also discusses how this process may lead to the Nation’s consent on projects, and the reconciliation of Crown and Squamish interests, something the Nation has not been able to achieve through the Crown environmental assessment process.


For centuries people of the Squamish Nation have lived in villages throughout their territory and managed their lands and waters. From the Nation’s perspective the lands and waters of their territory have always been theirs, and they have always had the right to use and control these lands and waters, and enjoy their benefits. In Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, 2014 SCC 44 (Tsilhqot’in) the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed that Aboriginal title, which Squamish
claims throughout its territory, includes “the right to decide how the land will be used; the right of enjoyment and occupancy of the land; the right to possess the land, the right to the economic benefits of the land; and the right to proactively use and manage the land” (Tsilhqot’in, at para.73.). In addition, the Court found that the right to control land means those seeking to use title land must obtain consent of the title holders, or establish that the incursion on the land is justified under s. 35 of
the Constitution Act, 1982.

There are a number of major developments proposed in Squamish Nation territory, and the Crown has always presumed that it could proceed with the assessment of proposed projects, and fulfill its duties to consult Squamish, through established environmental assessment (EA) processes under the BC Environmental Assessment Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. However, in Squamish’s view these processes fall short of what is required to
fulfill the Crown’s constitutional obligations to Squamish, and certainly do not provide a venue through which Squamish’s consent for proposed projects could be secured. As a result, the Squamish Nation has developed and is now implementing its own independent assessment process for major projects proposed in its territory (the Squamish Nation Process). This paper outlines the background from which the Squamish Nation Process emerged, what the Squamish Nation Process is and how it may ultimately lead to the reconciliation of Crown and Squamish Nation decisions on major project proposals in Squamish territory.