Ottawa’s changes to pipeline approval process not enough, say some First Nations

Major First Nation organizations say they want better consultation, stronger environmental reviews

APTN National News
OTTAWA—Three major First Nation organizations representing chiefs from British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec, said Friday the federal Liberal government’s announced changes to the pipeline review process doesn’t quite go far enough.

The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL), the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs  (AMC) and the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) issued a statement Thursday saying they want deeper changers to consultation and the environmental assessments of proposed pipeline projects.

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna unveiled transitional changes to the review process of TransCanada’s Energy East and Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline projects.

The ministers said the federal government would be directly engaging First Nations in consultation on the projects beyond the regulatory review process led by the National Energy Board (NEB).

The chiefs from the three organizations said the changes do little to improve the NEB, which they consider as simply a “rubber stamper that pays only lip services to the respect for the position for the positions and rights of First Nations.”

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the UBCIC, said he was particularly concerned about Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline.

Phillip acknowledged that the Liberal government has said it plans to engage in direct consultation with First Nations once the NEB wraps up its review in May of the pipeline project which will carry Alberta-mined bitumen to Burnaby, B.C.

“Ultimately, how are we any better off today than yesterday as far as the Kinder Morgan project goes?” said Phillip. “What we need is the federal government’s willingness to take no for an answer from First Nations like Tsleil-Waututh Nation who are exercising their sovereign decision-making power.”

AFNQL regional Chief Ghislain Picard said the Liberals should have first consulted with First Nations before unveiling their changes to the pipeline approval process.

“We could have signaled ahead of time that such reforms did not go nearly far enough,” said Picard. “At a time when First Nations are already suffering major climate change related impacts to their ways of life, one of our main concerns is that the new climate test that these pipelines will be subjected to will not sufficiently reflect the urgency with which we need to reduce emissions and get off fossil fuels.”

Carr said Wednesday that the Liberal government would be consulting with First Nations before introducing an overhaul of the regulatory approval process of pipelines and other large natural resource projects. He said the changes announced Wednesday will remain in place until the federal government unveils its permanent retooling of the approval process.

AMC Grand Chief Derek Nepinak said some of his organization’s member First Nations were “shocked” the Liberals did not apply the additional consultation promised for the Energy East and Trans Mountain projects to Enbridge’s proposed Line 3 project.

“The threat of climate change is such that the real issue is whether we will survive as a civilization and whether there will even be an economy left to speak of,” said Nepinak.

The Iroquois Caucus, which represents the communities of Kanesatake, Kahnawake, Akwesasne, Oneida Nation of the Thames, Six Nations, Tyendinaga and the Wahta Mohawks, also issued a statement saying while they still oppose Energy East, the communities are still looking forward to consultation with Ottawa.

“We are willing to meet with the senior Crown representatives to participate in the development of a meaningful process that is consistent with the historic Two-Row relationship with the Haudenosaunee and the legal obligations of the Crown to address and accommodate First Nation concerns including the shortcomings of the (NEB) process,” said the statement.

In an interview with APTN during the last federal election campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he believed First Nations had the right to reject projects on their territory.

[email protected]