Rock Star: Nalaine Morin, EP

Nalaine works with First Nations across Canada on projects as varied as mining, pipelines and highway infrastructure.

by Jessica Kirby
Nalaine Morin, principal with ArrowBlade Consulting, works to bridge First Nations Traditional Knowledge with Western Science in development projects.

Nalaine Morin, principal with ArrowBlade Consulting, works to bridge First Nations traditional knowledge with western science in development projects. — Photo: Nalaine Morin

Educated at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), and certified by the Canadian Environmental Certification Approvals Board, Nalaine Morin is currently the principal at ArrowBlade Consulting Services where she provides services in technical review, regulatory support, negotiations, community consultation, and environmental resource management.

She works with First Nations across Canada on projects as varied as mining, pipelines and highway infrastructure, and in 2006, helped establish the Tahltan Heritage Resources Environmental Assessment Team on behalf of the Tahltan Nation, of which she is a member.

“My mother is from Telegraph Creek, B.C.,” she said. “We grew up all over B.C. but I spent most of my youth in Smithers with summers in Tahltan territory.

“I grew up in mining communities and my dad worked as a millwright for most of his career for different mines in Canada. For me, mining was a natural fit and always an interest since I was a little girl.” 

Morin has a metallurgical engineering degree from UBC and a certificate in Mechanical Engineering Design from BCIT. Her technical background combined with being of Tahltan descent has led to her identify and develop ways to connect and support First Nations traditional knowledge and Western science, effectively managing complicated resource project issues in a cross-cultural setting.

In fact, many of the innovative processes she has helped develop have been subsequently adopted for use at the provincial level.

“I like the challenges and changes I have seen in the mining industry in the past 10 years,” she said. “One area of mining that I am keenly interested in is the changes in relationships with First Nations.

“First Nations people are directly experiencing changes to their landscape related to mining and other resource development activity. They want to make sure that if these changes occur, they are done in a way that respects their rights and interests and their responsibilities as environmental stewards of their traditional lands.”

The past decade has brought a great deal of progress towards these goals through impact benefit agreements, environmental monitoring programs, and consultation and reconciliation efforts with the province to ensure First Nations are involved in project permitting throughout a project's mine life.

“Most recently, government has also included First Nations in changes to the Mine Health and Safety Code in B.C.,” she said. “This code and the Mines Act govern all mining activity in the province. I have been a part of this process and it has been a good experience for me.”

One exciting aspect of Morin’s work has been the relationships developed during a project. “Now we are working closely with both proponents and the government through all stages of a project's life cycle,” she said.

A lot of her work with First Nations on negotiations and working towards stronger positions for their governments means ensuring they have developed processes to exercise their rights in stewardship and decision-making on the land and developing capacity.

Morin expressed the importance of working with both the Government of Canada and the Province of BC on policy change that will reflect the interests and needs of First Nations people.

Morin expects the future of mining will reflect a combination of the effects of market factors, resource availability, environmental stewardship and education, but whereas mining used to be exclusively about engineering efficiencies to create projects, now the social aspect of project development plays a key role.

“I am interested to see where First Nations are going to go,” she said. “The social part has had significant impact on resource development on a number of different aspects.

“One, the financial—it’s pretty clear that if you are not aligned with or have consulted with local First Nations there is a hesitancy to provide funding. It is also about real engagement, real relationship development, and avoiding the other end of the spectrum—the roadblocks and demonstrations.”

Moving forward, Morin hopes to expand her current client list and her professional development, and she has her eye on environmental areas such as reclamation.

“As First Nations gain more in their ideas around decision making, that level of certification and professionalism is quite important,” she said. “So if there is a specific area of land with value such that First Nations are standing up and saying there is no opportunity for development here, people want to know—what is the basis of that kind of decision making and do you have the expertise to make that decision?”

She is considering expanding her education to include project management and certification, and courses in mining and the environment.

“As First Nations start to evolve in their decision making abilities, our understanding from a technical capacity must also increase.”

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