4.1 Introduction

Effective involvement of Indigenous communities, the public, and government agencies is a key component of Crown land use planning. In most planning projects some involvement is mandatory in order to meet legal or policy requirements. Additional rationales include:

  • drawing on diverse knowledge and perspectives to develop effective policies
  • identifying public values, because many planning decisions are substantially about value choices
  • providing fairness and transparency in decision making to support broader government commitments
  • increasing understanding and support for the land use policies, improving the likelihood that they will be implemented
  • identifying opportunities for involvement or partnerships in implementation
  • developing relationships which support ongoing objectives
  • avoiding the potential costs of not consulting that can include opposition to a proposal and poorer relationships

Key principles of public involvement, include:

  • clarity of purpose
  • outcomes are not predetermined
  • inclusiveness
  • commitment of resources
  • sharing of information
  • reasonable, realistic time frames
  • flexibility and responsiveness
  • follow-through and reporting
  • continuous improvement
  • ongoing involvement

4.2 Consultation and engagement with Indigenous peoples

Section 35 of Canada’s Constitution Act, 1982 recognizes and affirms the existing Aboriginal and treaty rights of Aboriginal peoples, who are defined as including the Indian, Inuit and Metis peoples of Canada. These rights are primarily exercised on Crown lands and frequently involve the use of natural resources for specific purposes, such as the right to harvest natural resources for food, social or ceremonial purposes.

Land use plans and designations do not prohibit activities carried out by Indigenous peoples, such as hunting, fishing, trapping, gathering, and travel. Even in the Crown land use designations with the most restrictive policies (e.g. Recommended Provincial Park or Recommended Conservation Reserve), the exercise of Aboriginal and treaty rights may continue, subject to considerations such as public safety and conservation. Crown land use designations and policies are not irreversible, and do not preclude the consideration of lands in land claim processes.

Canadian courts continue to clarify the Crown’s obligations in respect of constitutionally protected Aboriginal and treaty rights, including the duty to consult and, where appropriate, accommodation; and have identified that the Crown owes a duty to consult, and where appropriate accommodate, where its decisions and actions may adversely affect established or credibly asserted Aboriginal and treaty rights. Ontario recognizes and respects Aboriginal and treaty rights; and is mindful of meeting its constitutional, and other legal and policy obligations that may be owed to Indigenous peoples and their communities.

In addition to addressing legal obligations, participation by Indigenous peoples in planning has benefits for both Indigenous peoples and broader society. There may be opportunities for improved communications, which can address potential concerns and improve the outcomes of the planning process. It may be possible to identify new economic opportunities in conjunction with planning.

As part of the development of broader involvement strategies, consideration should be given to strategies that will support the engagement of Indigenous communities and the earliest possible stages of the planning process. This engagement may be in addition to meeting any specific Aboriginal consultation obligations that may exist. The engagement strategies may need to be separate from public involvement activities.

4.3 Communications requirements

All Crown land use planning projects should have a communications component, although the nature and scale of the communication can vary dramatically depending on the type of project. In the case of an administrative land use amendment, communication would usually be limited to the posting of the amendment on the Crown Land Use Policy Atlas (CLUPA). For a larger planning project, communication would be more extensive.

Where required, communications planning is essential to ensure that:

  • the purpose of the communication is clearly defined
  • communications mechanisms are suitable for the topic and audience, and necessary communications products are produced
  • messages are consistent with overall Ministry and government direction
  • legal or policy requirements for public involvement or communications are addressed
  • potential public issues are identified, and response strategies are developed
  • communications planning is coordinated with overall project planning
  • appropriate approvals have been obtained

4.4 Involving other ministries

The Ontario Government places a high priority on integrating policy development across programs and ministries. Area-specific land use policy can have significant cross-ministry implications, and thus Crown land use planning should apply integrated approaches wherever possible. The nature of the engagement is related to the scale and scope of the planning – some basic planning processes may not need any inter-ministry involvement, while most complex or comprehensive planning processes will warrant extensive involvement.

Some methods that support integration in Crown land use planning include:

  • identifying potential cross-ministry implications early in the planning process (step one or two preferably)
  • reviewing Crown land use planning initiatives at an early stage to determine what cross-ministry involvement is desirable, and building this into the planning process
  • discussions with other ministries to assess interest and potential implications
  • establishing a cross-ministry committee or project team for specific planning projects (primarily complex or comprehensive processes)
  • providing opportunities for other ministries to input information and analysis and review draft material prior to public release
  • providing feedback to other ministries regarding how their input was been considered at various stages in the process
  • providing advance notice to other ministries of the release of material
  • dialogue throughout the process

Crown land use planning processes and policies should identify any issues or requirements necessitating cross-ministry involvement and, where applicable, subject them to inter-ministry review.

4.5 Consulting with municipalities and planning boards

Substantial portions of the Crown lands in Ontario are located within municipal boundaries or in areas where local planning boards carry out planning for private lands. Municipalities may have a range of interests in Crown land use planning, including the potential for Crown land activities to have implications for municipal servicing, compatibility of Crown land activities with activities on private lands, and the role that Crown land plays in the provision of economic or recreational opportunities for community residents. It is essential to engage municipalities and planning boards in Crown land use planning processes.

Where a proposed change in area-specific land use policy for Crown lands is being considered in the vicinity of, abutting with, or within a municipality or planning board area, the municipality or planning board must be engaged to seek comments. This requirement also applies to proposals that may be distant from a municipality or planning board area but may have a significant impact on the community.

The Ministry will allow realistic timelines for municipal and planning board comments.