Backgrounder
Frontier Oil Sands Mine Project

The hearing of the Joint Review Panel will commence at 9 am on Tuesday September 25th at MacDonald Island (Miskanaw Ballroom), 1 CA Knight Way, Fort McMurray, Alberta. The public hearing will give the Joint Review Panel as well as Indigenous groups, governments, environmental groups and other hearing participants an opportunity to question the proponent about the project and the Environmental Impact Assessment. Participants will be able to provide their views to the Panel and highlight the matters they have presented in their written submissions. Anyone is welcome to come and observe the hearing even if they are not participating in the process.

Transcripts

A court reporting service is hired for the hearing to ensure that the hearing is recorded. An electronic version of the transcripts will be available for viewing on the project public registry as soon as possible following the close of each day's proceedings. The transcripts produced are the official record of the hearing.

The Procedure during the Hearing

The following information outlines the procedural steps that have generally been followed in previous joint review panel hearings; however, the Panel is not required to follow these particular procedures.

Opening Remarks: The hearing begins with the Panel Chair making brief opening remarks. The Chair then explains the purpose of the hearing and introduces the members of the Panel as well as the Secretariat staff.

Registration: The proponent and participants will be required to register following the Panel Chair's opening remarks. The order of cross-examination generally follows the registration order.

Preliminary Matters: Following registration, the Panel asks if anyone has any preliminary matters, such as scheduling of a specific witness.

Presentation of the Project and Questioning: After preliminary matters, the proponent will present its case. The proponent may sit a witness panel. The witnesses swear or affirm that they will tell the truth and then proceed to give their evidence. The lawyer for the proponent may ask questions of the witnesses (direct examination). When the proponent is finished giving direct evidence, the participants are able to ask questions of the proponent's witness panel (cross-examination). Cross-examination may be used to clarify the proponent's evidence or question the proponent's witnesses on evidence they have given. It is not a time for the participants to give their testimony. Following cross-examination by the participants, the Secretariat and the members of the Panel may ask questions of the witness panel. Once questioning of the witness panel is finished, the proponent has the opportunity to question its witness panel again to clarify evidence raised during cross-examination.

Presentation of Participants: In the next stage of the hearing, participants present their case in the same order in which they registered, or as determined by the Panel. To give evidence, a participant's witnesses must swear or affirm to give evidence truthfully. The participant's witnesses will then give direct evidence. Next, other participants who are adverse in interest may cross-examine, followed by the lawyer for the proponent. The participant may then be questioned by the Secretariat and members of the Panel. Following cross-examination, the participant is entitled to clarify any matters that arose during cross-examination.

Witness panels: Evidence may be given by one or more witnesses sitting as a panel. Questions addressed to a witness panel may be directed to specific members of the witness panel or the witness panel in general. Members of a witness panel may confer among themselves. Where a question is directed at a specific member of a witness panel and that member is not able to answer the question, the Panel may permit another member of the witness panel to answer the question.

Rebuttal Evidence by Proponent: Once all the participants' presentations are completed, the proponent may give evidence in response to issues raised by the participants' evidence (rebuttal).

Final Argument: After all evidence is given, the proponent and all the participants have the opportunity to submit their final arguments to the Panel. For final argument, the proponent goes first, followed by the participants in order of registration, or as determined by the Panel. The proponent is then given the opportunity to reply to the participants' final arguments. Argument is intended to summarize evidence, highlight the important aspects of the issues, state what the Panel's recommendations and decision should be regarding the project and give supporting reasons.

Closing of Hearing: Following the final arguments, the Chair of the Panel usually announces that the hearing is complete and that the recommendations and decision of the Panel will be given in writing at a later date.

After the Hearing

Once the Panel has completed the public hearing it will issue a public report, setting out the Panel's rationale, conclusions and recommendations regarding the environmental review of the project. The report will be conveyed to the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change for decision and to the Government of Alberta and be made public. The report is also the Alberta Energy Regulator's written decision on Teck's applications to the AER.

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