2 Mohawk communities withdrawing from Energy East hearings

Some First Nations leaders are calling for Indigenous ownership of pipeline

Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
The two Mohawk communities which were at the centre of the Oka crisis are withdrawing from the National Energy Board’s review of the Energy East pipeline.

The chiefs of Kanesatake and Kahnawake say the National Energy Board (NEB) process is broken and they no longer want to participate in hearings currently unfolding on TransCanada’s proposed 4,600 kilometre Energy East pipeline which would carry about 1.1 million barrels of oil per day from Alberta and Saskatchewan to Saint John, N.B., for refining.

The proposed pipeline would cross the territories of about 155 First Nations.

Energy East has the backing of the federal Liberal government.

“We have taken the position that our response is no, we are not going to be involved anymore,” said Kahnawake Grand Chief Joe Norton. “Obviously they are going to go ahead and do what they damn well please and we don’t want to be seen or considered as part of the consultation process.”

Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon said there needs to be a new process that deals exclusively with the Crown’s duty to consult with First Nations on major resource projects. He said the Energy East approval process needs to be put on pause until that happens.

“It needs to be representatives of the Crown. The Crown and I must agree on a consultation process and I never agreed to the NEB,” said Simon. “I never sat down with the minister, I never got any type of consultation.”

Kanesatake was the epicentre of the 1990 Oka crisis which was triggered after the neighbouring village of Oka attempted to bulldoze the community’s burial grounds to expand a golf course. Kahnawake, which sits just south of Montreal, shut down the high-traffic Mercier Bridge in solidarity with its sister community that summer.

The Canadian military was deployed to both communities after Quebec invoked rarely used powers. Norton was grand chief of Kahnawake during the crisis.

Norton said Kahnawake would find means to ensure their displeasure with the Energy East process is heard.

“We are looking at other ways and means of protesting,” said Norton. “I am not at liberty to give any information out on that. We are not going to support it and we are going to show our dissatisfaction.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told chiefs gathered at the Assembly of First Nations annual December gathering in Gatineau, Que., Tuesday that his government was committed to building a new “nation-to-nation” relationship with First Nations.

The Trudeau government, however, has yet to reveal how it plans to improve consultation on resource projects. It’s believed the Liberal government is considering increasing the number of board members on the regulatory agency and including some with expertise on Indigenous law, but it’s all still at the planning stage.

Some Indigenous leaders involved in the energy sector believe First Nations need to own the Energy East pipeline.

Cold Lake First Nation Coun. Cameron Janvier, whose northern Alberta community is involved in the energy sector through various partnerships, said the pipeline will be carrying oil from Indigenous territories.

“We should put a lot of consideration and thought into having ownership of the pipeline that is going to carrying our commodity to the end user,” said Janvier. “That should be highlighted in any discussion, to seriously look at having ownership. You then create strong economic base and it’s a revenue generator that is going to be key for any community who wants to look after the needs of their people.”

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