Manitoba chief wants AFN to back pipeline occupation

(Enbridge map shows the energy firm’s Canadian Mainline West pipeline connection with the U.S. Mainline West pipeline in Gretna, Man., which would be targeted for occupation by Roseau River First Nation. Enbridge website.)

Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
The chief of a Manitoba First Nation will be seeking support from the Assembly of First Nations next week to launch an occupy campaign targeting energy firm Enbridge’s pipeline terminals if Ottawa fails to settle an outstanding historical grievance over lost territory.

Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation Chief Alfred Hayden says he plans to table a motion at the AFN special chiefs assembly in Gatineau, Que., calling on the AFN to support a campaign of action against Enbridge pipeline infrastructure if Ottawa fails to settle outstanding treaty land entitlement obligations by June 7.

Hayden said the pipeline and terminal fall within Roseau River’s treaty lands, yet the First Nation receives nothing from the firm or Ottawa for the trespass.

“All these years have gone by and all we hear is talk and talk,” said Hayden. “I am a new chief and I have been hearing this talk and talk all the time…I want to make things happen, not just talk.”

Roseau River will also launch a multi-million dollar breach of treaty court action against Ottawa over its failure to turn-over agreed to territory for conversion into reserve land.

According to the draft of the resolution obtained by APTN National News, Roseau River will target Enbridge’s Gretna, Man., pipeline terminal which sits about 75 kilometres southwest of the First Nation. The Enbridge Gretna terminal connects the energy firm’s Canadian Mainline West pipeline with the U.S. Mainline West pipeline which eventually splits, with one arm running down to Chicago, Ill., and the other to Sarnia, Ont.

“First Nations don’t get anything from them. We want something from them,” said Hayden. “If nothing happens from what we are looking for, then come June 7 there will be something happening.”

Former Roseau River chief Terry Nelson, who is now grand chief of the Southern Chiefs of Organization, said the direct action would likely involve an occupation of the pipeline terminal. Nelson said Enbridge would be forced to shut down the oil flow through the pipelines if maintenance crews can’t access the terminal within three days.

“It’s not a terrorist kind of action. It is basically saying, okay (Prime Minister Justin Trudeau) you said nation-to-nation, what does that mean?” said Nelson. “One thing that (previous prime minister Stephen Harper) proved was that Ottawa can cut funding to First Nations at any time they want. So we are going to cut them too then if that’s the way they operate.”

Southern Chiefs Organization Grand Chief Terry Nelson. APTN/File
Southern Chiefs Organization Grand Chief Terry Nelson. APTN/File

The draft resolution also calls for other First Nation communities to take similar action against Enbridge pipeline terminals between Alberta and Manitoba.

All can be avoided if Ottawa finally settles its outstanding commitments on Roseau River’s treaty land entitlement settlement, said Nelson.

The grievance stems from the Aug 3, 1871, signing of Treaty 1 by the Ojibway and Swampy Cree which involved 26,876 square kilometres of territory surrendered in southern Manitoba.

In 1993, Roseau River launched a $763 million lawsuit against Ottawa based on the valuation of the territory and the Crown’s failure to compensate the community over the loss of its reservation lands that were promised but never turned over.

While Roseau River settled with Ottawa in 1996, the federal government also admitted it had failed to turn over 2,371 hectares of reserve land that had been promised at the time of the treaty.

Ottawa said it would give itself 15 years to turn over the reserve land shortfall, but 19 years later, only about 29 hectares have been transferred to the band.

“(Chief Hayden) will lead a negotiating team to try and resolve the issue within the next six months. Failing that, notice will go to Enbridge…to shut down the Gretna pumping station,” said Nelson.

Nelson said Enbridge would get notice on June 1 if Roseau River failed to reach a settlement with Ottawa on the outstanding land.

Enbridge issued a statement saying it was “aware of the underlying and long-standing concerns of Roseau River Anishinaabe First Nation and other Treaty 1 member nations regarding unresolved treaty issues with the Crown.”

Enbridge said it planned to continue engaging with Roseau River and other First Nations to deal with any issues related to their projects, assets and operations.

“We understand the underlying issues that exist between First Nations and the Crown and we look forward to those parties engaging directly, to exchange and hopefully reconcile their respective views,” said the statement.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett’s office did not return a request for comment as of this article’s posting.

Enbridge is currently in the midst of National Energy Board hearings on its $4.9 billion project to replace its Line 3 pipeline which runs between Hardisty, Alta., and Gretna.

Nelson was scheduled to testify at the hearings Wednesday.

The NEB is currently hearing Indigenous oral traditional evidence during sessions in Winnipeg that run until Thursday. The hearings will then resume in Calgary and run from Dec. 7 to Dec. 11.

AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde recently told APTN’s Nation to Nation that the NEB is not the appropriate venue to deal with the Crown’s duty to consult with First Nations on projects that impact their rights and territories.

The Trudeau government has stated it intends to enhance the NEB’s ability to deal with consultation, but has no plans to create a process specific for meeting the duty to consult outside of established regulatory bodies like the NEB.

The NEB has also begun hearings on TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline which will run across about 150 First Nation territories.

A former TransCanada official was recently appointed as special assistant to Finance Minister Bill Morneau. A former Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and Shell official was also recently appointed as chief of staff to Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr.

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