The CER’s Adjudicative Processes during COVID-19
Update – 27 August 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose an unprecedented challenge for all of those with whom we work closely. Over the past several months, the Commission of the Canada Energy Regulator (CER) adjusted a number of its adjudicative processes to replace in-person meetings with alternative formats, such as written or virtual proceedings. This allowed the Commission to continue to offer processes that are fair, timely, transparent and accessible, while also respecting physical distancing measures.
Adjudicative processes require significant planning months in advance and restrictions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic remain uncertain and vary regionally. As a federally regulated workplace, the CER follows federal guidance which continues to limit in person meetings and travel to protect employees and the public. For these reasons, the Commission will continue to convene its hearings using written and virtual processes until at least January 2022. This practice is widely used in courts and tribunals across Canada.
The Commission recognizes that there may be concerns or hesitancy regarding the use of a virtual format to provide information during a hearing. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commission remains committed to safeguarding the health of those involved in hearing processes, including participants, associated staff, and contractors.
Details relating to specific adjudicative processes will be communicated transparently in advance. By planning ahead, the Commission is able to establish predictable processes for all participants and can continue to meet legislative time limits and the CER’s Service Standards.
As before the pandemic, the majority of applications adjudicated by the Commission do not involve in-person meetings and can be evaluated and tested through written processes. This is an efficient way to conduct a comprehensive and science-based review of the proposed project’s engineering and safety specifications, economic, socio-economic and environmental effects, and possible impacts on the rights and interests of Indigenous peoples.
The CER sends a Notice of Application to Indigenous peoples to notify them that the CER has received an application that may impact their community. The Notice of Application provides details on how to submit comments to the CER.
The CER is aware that Indigenous communities in Canada face increased challenges and risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, and have taken extra measures to protect their communities. As such, when a Notice of Application is sent to an Indigenous community, the CER will:
- reach out to Indigenous communities to assess their capacity to engage. Where communities have expressed that they have the ability to engage, CER staff will work with them to arrange engagement by phone or videoconference. This will ensure the safety of Indigenous community members and CER staff by eliminating in-person contact; and
- continue to provide additional time (30 days instead of the regular 14 days), for Indigenous communities to respond to Notices of Application from CER. Further extension requests will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
The CER understands that participating in written processes may be challenging for some participants at this time. If participants have concerns with meeting CER deadlines, please contact a Process Advisor at 1-800-899-1265 to discuss your options.
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