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What Is Social Licence? Vancouver Panel to Debate on March 14

Our prime minister has cited its importance. So what does it actually mean?

By Tyee Staff 1 Mar 2017 | TheTyee.ca

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made a point of saying that for projects like pipelines to proceed, it’s not just political, legal and regulatory approval that must be obtained. “Social licence” is also key.

Social licence is commonly defined as ongoing community and stakeholder support for a project. The fact that social licence is “ongoing” is crucial to understanding it. It’s not a simple one-off approval given to companies; it must be maintained over the course of a project’s lifespan.

Because social licence is an evolving phenomenon, this has made an exact definition tricky. After all, support can change as new information arises. UBC forestry professor Fred Bunnell has stressed that a community’s acceptance is not necessarily their approval, and their co-operation is not necessarily trust. A social licence may become a legal deal, but to communities, it’s more than a transaction — it’s a relationship.

The McGill Institute for the Study of Canada will be exploring the complexity of social licence in its “What is Social Licence” event on March 14 in Vancouver. The event is free and open to the public, though registration is encouraged (see below for details).

While tensions over social licence occur globally, British Columbia has a well-known reputation for public drama around social licence. In this province, the interests of oil producers, Indigenous communities and environmentalists often clash.

Trudeau has stressed the importance of resetting Canada’s relationship to its Indigenous communities, bringing Canadian goods to market, and action on climate change. But since taking office, these goals have collided.

The upcoming panel discussion aims to go beyond the partisan bickering and sloganeering that has sometimes followed social licence in headlines. Expect an open, frank and intellectual evening among a diversity of voices.

The panel takes place March 14 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Musqueam Cultural Centre Gallery on Musqueam lands in Vancouver. A reception will precede the discussion at 6 p.m.

Confirmed panelists are:

Grand Chief Edward John (Akile Ch’oh), Tl’azt’en Nation; United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Terry Beech, member of Parliament for Burnaby North-Seymour
Susannah Pierce, director, External Affairs at LNG Canada
Harry Swain, associate fellow at the Centre for Global Studies, former deputy minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, former deputy industry minister

Candis Callison, associate professor at UBC’s Graduate School of Journalism, will be moderating.

Again, this event is free and open to public but RSVPs are encouraged. Please send an email registering your interest to misc.iecm@mcgill.ca or register on Eventbrite here.  [Tyee]

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