APTN National News
OTTAWA–Several top federal officials are planning to meet with senior First Nations leaders in British Columbia later this month in an attempt to break an impasse over planned major pipeline projects facing resistance from Indigenous communities in the province, according to a letter obtained by APTN National News.
Deputy ministers from seven departments are requesting a meeting Sept. 23 with Grand Chief Edward John, who heads the First Nations Summit, B.C. Assembly of First Nations regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould and Union BC Indian Chiefs president Grand Chief Stewart Phillip.
The officials looking to meet with the First Nations leaders include the deputy ministers of aboriginal affairs, natural resources, fisheries and oceans, transport, environment, western economic diversification and employment and social development.
Two major pipeline projects, Enbridge’s Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan’s Trans-Mountain pipeline, face major resistance from First Nations people and communities. Both pipelines are slated to pump tar sands bitumen from Alberta to the B.C. coast.
Impetus for the meeting appears to stem from discussions initiated by Douglas Eyford, who was appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper this past march as a Special Federal Representative on West Coast Energy Infrastructure with a mandate to smooth the way for First Nations buy-in on pipeline projects.
“Mr. Eyford’s discussions to date with British Columbia First Nations have highlighted the importance of engagement between senior government officials and First Nations,” wrote Serge Dupont, deputy minister for natural resources, in a letter to one of the three First Nations leaders invited to the meeting. “Including initiatives to strengthen environmental protection improve marine and pipeline safety and enhance Aboriginal participation in resource development.”
According to Dupont’s letter, federal officials hope the meeting will lead to build “common ground” and “pursue shared opportunities and interests.”
Dupont’s letter, however, makes clear the meetings are not meant as consultation on any planned energy project.
The meeting is tentatively set to run from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and will be held on the sixth floor of Aboriginal Affairs’ Vancouver office building.
“The purpose of the meeting would be to engage in dialogue with you and your key council members to better understand the issues and priorities of our communities in respect of proposed or future resource and infrastructure development opportunities,” wrote Dupont, in the Sept. 9 dated letter.