As a quasi-judicial and regulatory agency, the NRCB conducts public interest reviews of proposed natural resource projects under the Natural Resources Conservation Board Act, considering social, environmental, and economic effects. Projects that may impact Aboriginal and treaty rights trigger the Crown duty to consult and accommodate Indigenous groups. The Supreme Court of Canada decisions in Chippewas of the Thames First Nation v Enbridge Pipelines Inc., (Chippewas) and Clyde River (Hamlet) v Petroleum Geo‑Services Inc., confirmed that regulatory tribunals like the NRCB may help fulfill the Crown's duty to consult with Indigenous groups. The Government of Alberta has stated that it may rely upon the NRCB’s review process to partially or completely fulfil the government’s duty to consult and accommodate.
The Alberta Aboriginal Consultation Office (ACO) works with Alberta government ministries and regulators to ensure that the Government of Alberta’s duty to consult is met, providing a recommendation to the government on the adequacy of the consultation. However, the ACO does not provide a recommendation or advice to the NRCB. The NRCB does not assess the adequacy of the government’s direct Indigenous consultation. Instead, the NRCB satisfies itself that the government consultation process is sufficiently advanced to allow the NRCB review process to proceed.
The NRCB has revised its pre-hearing, hearing, and decision-making procedures to ensure they align with the Alberta government’s duty to consult and accommodate Indigenous groups.