Interpretation Policy

This Interpretation Policy addresses the commitment outlined in the Government of Canada's Red Tape Reduction Action Plan, namely:

"The government will require regulators to publish interpretation policies on their websites that explain how they interpret regulations, including when they can be counted on to give answers to stakeholders' questions in writing."

An Interpretation Policy is an overarching document that outlines the commitments, practices, and tools to be applied by a Department or agency when providing Canadians and businesses with information and guidance on regulatory obligations to be met. It also identifies the conditions under which written responses to questions will be provided.

Call for Stakeholder and Partner Feedback on Regulatory Guidance and Services: May 30 – September 2, 2016

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) sought feedback from stakeholders, partners and interested and affected parties on the regulatory guidance and services it provides for the numerous regulations under its responsibility through an online survey. The survey was posted on the Department's web site from May 30, 2016 – September 2, 2016.

Based on the feedback provided through this survey, INAC developed an improvement priority and metrics to improve the Department's regulatory guidance and services. A progress report on implementation is available online, as per Treasury Board Secretariat requirements.

Table of contents

Departmental Context

The Department is responsible for two mandates, Indigenous Affairs and Northern Development, which together support Canada's Indigenous peoples and northern residents in the pursuit of healthy and sustainable communities and broader economic and social development objectives.

The two mandates are derived from the Canadian Constitution and a number of statutes and regulations, and are shaped by policies and program practices.

In order to fulfill its mandates and as part of developing and implementing regulations, INAC collaborates with a variety of interested parties including: other federal Departments; provincial and territorial governments; Treaty organisations; First Nation bands and tribal councils; Inuit and Métis communities, regional and national organisations; the private sector and industry representatives; non-governmental organisations; and citizens in general.

Role of Regional Offices in Providing Regulatory Guidance

Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut:

Through its Northern Development mandate, INAC is the lead federal Department for two-fifths of Canada's land mass. It has a direct role in the political and economic development of the three territories and significant responsibilities for resource, land and environmental management. The territorial governments provide the majority of social programs and services to residents, including Indigenous people, and in some cases Indigenous governments have assumed program responsibilities through self-government agreements.

The Northern regional offices support the headquarters lead in the development and implementation of regulations for resource management and environmental assessment. In Yukon and the Northwest Territories, many of those responsibilities have been transferred to the territorial governments as a result of devolution. In Nunavut, the regional office continues to administer INAC's province-like responsibilities for administration and management of Crown land, water, and minerals.

South of 60:

Regional offices south of 60 work closely with stakeholders in the funding and delivery of programs - education, governance, social assistance, child and family services and housing, amongst others, and in the management of lands and resources on reserve. They also play a front-line role in interacting with stakeholders on regulatory requirements (e.g. permits, leases, estates), communicating either by phone, email, mail or in person. The Department also offers guidance by producing generic on-line documentation (e.g. information on land management requirements, and reporting obligations), by attending various public events such as conferences and symposia and by establishing ongoing working relationships with stakeholders.

In addition to regional offices, Indian Oil and Gas Canada is a special operating agency within INAC that manages and regulates oil and gas resources on First Nation lands.

Commitment to Serving Canadians and Businesses better

INAC is committed to ensuring stakeholders, whether located in the North or South of 60, and businesses established on reserve or in the North, understand what they need to do to comply with federal regulatory requirements.

INAC developed this Regulatory Interpretation Policy to provide clear and consistent information on how regulatory compliance guidance is communicated verbally or in writing to stakeholders.

Guiding Principles

INAC's Interpretation Policy and all other Departmental regulatory initiatives are guided by the Department's mission and the Government's Cabinet Directive on Regulatory Management.

This policy has four pillars: Predictability, Service, Stakeholder Engagement, and Improvement.


Plain Language Commitment

  1. INAC will provide consistent and predictable regulatory interpretation by using clear and concise language to communicate the intent of regulatory requirements, in line with the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada. Adjustments or improvements to guidance will occur periodically to reflect regulatory changes or feedback from affected stakeholders.
  2. List of Regulations and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on the Department's Acts, bills and regulations page.

Providing Guidance and Building Awareness

INAC will provide consistent and predictable regulatory interpretation by:

  1. Publishing a 2-Year Forward Regulatory Plan twice a year on the Department's intent to introduce or change regulations, including those that affect business.
  2. Encouraging open and timely communication between government and stakeholders.

Responding to Questions

  1. INAC will respond to enquiries by stakeholders in a clear, consistent, and professional manner as per the Department's Values and Ethics Code (available through, in the form that enquiries are made, whether orally or in writing, or as appropriate. General enquiries should be directed to the Department's Public Enquiries Contact Centre.

    Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada
    Terrasses de la Chaudière
    10 Wellington, North Tower
    Gatineau, QC K1A 0H4

    Phone: (toll-free) 1-800-567-9604
    Fax: 1-866-817-3977
    TTY: (toll-free) 1-866-553-0554

    The Public Enquiries Contact Centre provides information and free publications related to departmental programs and services. As with all requests made through the Public Enquiries Contact Centre, it will provide the information requested, or send requested publications within three business days following receipt of a request. Please note that some complicated information requests may take ten to fifteen business days, or longer, but the Office will provide the person or organisation requesting information with an estimate of the time required to answer the request within three business days.

    Frequently Asked Questions have been developed to respond to more technical questions. They can be accessed through the list of Regulations Currently in Force. The Department will update and add to them as enquiries direct.

    It should be noted, however, that the Department engages with stakeholders on a regular basis to develop and implement regulations. Its various offices are in regular discussion with them to answer questions and provide guidance, whether in person, over the phone, by email or written correspondence. The Department is committed to acknowledging receipt of questions and to providing regulatory guidance in a timely manner in the official language chosen by stakeholders. It will address complaints regarding timeliness of response if they arise. Common/frequent enquiries may be responded to through Frequently Asked Questions.

    Disclaimer: The responses are intended for general guidance with respect to the regulations but are not legal advice or advice in respect of the specific situation of the stakeholder or organization. INAC recommends that stakeholders or organizations seek appropriate legal and expert advice concerning their specific situation.
  2. INAC is committed to acknowledging and responding to enquiries in a timely manner, in the official language chosen by stakeholders. Common/frequent enquiries may be responded to through Frequently Asked Questions.
  3. INAC will communicate with stakeholders should there be any need to clarify the enquiry, so as to fully and accurately understand and answer questions.


Service Commitment

  1. INAC will deliver reliable, professional and timely services when dealing with Indigenous Canadians and Canadians in general, and to businesses in Canada's north and businesses on First Nation reserves. These efforts will be guided by the Department's Service Standards for High Volume Regulatory Authorizations and other program-specific service standards such as:
  2. There are 4 modes of providing service:
    1. through Regional Offices;
    2. through Indian Oil and Gas Canada, when responding to Indian Oil and Gas Regulation inquiries;
    3. in-writing, using email, correspondence, and online feedback forums;
    4. through attendance and participation in conferences and various public forums.
  3. INAC will generally respond in the manner chosen by the individual making the enquiry: i.e. interpretation in writing will be provided to written requests.

Service Accountability

In the event that Canadians or businesses encounter problems (such as poor service or inconsistent guidance), there are opportunities to register complaints so that specific or recurring issues can be addressed. Stakeholders should first contact the Department to see if a fair and appropriate solution can be found. Disputes that cannot be resolved in that manner will be addressed through mechanisms described in the statute that gives the legislative authority for the given regulation, where they exist. The Department will respond to issues or complaints raised by Canadians and businesses, regarding regulatory guidance or answers to questions in a timely manner.

Staff Training

INAC will train employees on regulatory and policy interpretation to ensure professional and consistent delivery of programs to Canadians and businesses. The Community of Federal Regulators is one source of training for federal public servants involved in regulatory development and guidance. In addition, the Canada School of Public Service offers a wide variety of courses including but not limited to regulatory development, policy implementation, and stakeholder engagement.

Stakeholder Engagement

Commitment to Stakeholder Engagement

INAC is committed to routinely engaging relevant stakeholders with respect to upcoming regulations and the development of policies.

Stakeholder Engagement Mechanisms

  1. INAC will systematically engage with stakeholders through a number of means, which include:
    1. informal engagement with stakeholders, face-to-face, by phone or by video-conference;
    2. via dedicated service representatives either in person, by phone or video-conference, by email, by mail or by fax, or through online engagement mechanisms;
    3. meetings or other means; and
    4. pre-publication of regulations in the Canada Gazette.
  2. Stakeholder engagement will take place as part of ongoing discussions on forthcoming regulatory activities, to identify areas of improvement in the provision of regulatory guidance.


INAC is committed to improving the way in which it keeps the public and stakeholders informed about its regulatory business and will:

  1. Post priorities for improvement, if any, and relevant performance information on the Departmental website following discussions on areas of improvement with stakeholders.
  2. Implement mechanisms for improvement and continue to monitor performance, from April 1, 2015 to March 2017.
  3. Report on improvements made, if any were identified, in relation to information gathered, by March 31, 2017.

Program specific information

For information on the Action Plan to Improve Northern Regulatory Regimes.

For information on the Nunavut Mining Regulations and the Northwest Territories Regulations.

For more information on the modernization of the Indian Oil and Gas Act and the Indian Oil and Gas Regulations.

Related Reports

For more information

To learn about upcoming or ongoing consultations on proposed federal regulations, visit the Canada Gazette and Consulting With Canadians websites.

Date modified: