Gateway pipeline hearings conclude in Edmonton
Proposed line would run through Sturgeon and Alexander First Nation
By: Kevin Ma
| Posted: Wednesday, Feb 01, 2012 06:00 am
A week of hearings into the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline wrapped up in Edmonton on Tuesday with several presentations from First Nation members, but without hearing from Sturgeon County Mayor Don Rigney.
Rigney was scheduled to appear at the hearings Tuesday morning, but did not attend. He was set to make a written submission to the panel.
The panel did hear from more than 10 different groups over the five days of hearings. The $5.5 billion project, if approved by a federal Joint Review Panel, would run a pair of 1,177-kilometre pipelines through Sturgeon County and the Alexander First Nation, passing within a few kilometres of Morinville, Bon Accord and Gibbons along the way.
Maps of the proposed route for the pipelines suggest that they would pass through Alexander’s lands near Fox Creek and within a kilometre of its lands in Sturgeon County. In the process, the line would run through about 1,900 acres (769 hectares) of land set to be added to Alexander in the future under the 1998 Treaty Land Entitlement (TLE) Settlement Agreement.
While he did not explicitly oppose the project, Alexander Chief Herb Arcand criticized its proponents for failing to properly consult with his community on it when he spoke to the panel last Thursday.
“It is clear to us that this project will directly impact the treaty rights and aboriginal rights and title of Alexander First Nation,” he told the three-member panel, reading from a prepared address. Yet despite repeated requests to do so since 2002, the federal government has done little to investigate the pipeline’s impact on those rights — an investigation it is obliged to perform under Treaty 6. “It appears the proponent does not clearly understand the responsibility of government to adequately mitigate our concerns.”
This pipeline would affect the band’s ability to expand into its TLE lands, Arcand said, and its ability to build homes and create jobs near Fox Creek. The lines could also disturb significant archaeological sites on those lands and he recommended that the pipeline be routed around them.
The band was not opposed to development, Arcand said, but wanted its constitutionally protected rights accommodated before it proceeded. “More than a minimum standard should be maintained.”
Arcand did not take questions from the media, but did say that other community members would testify before the panel’s session in Comox, B.C., in March.
The panel did hear Tuesday from 17 members of the Driftpile First Nation, who have land on the pipeline route near Swan Hills. Chief Rose Laboucan said she was deeply concerned about the project and echoed Arcand’s concerns about the lack of consultation.
“If this pipeline has to go ahead there has to be meaningful consultation with the first nation.”
Laboucan said she was concerned the panel wasn’t truly listening and that the decision had already been made to go ahead with the project.
She cited Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s outspoken support for the project and criticism of some of the groups opposing the hearing, as part of the reason why she believed the decision had already been made.
She said in spite of what appeared to be an uphill battle the band would continue to express its concerns, especially about the impact the project could have on their children and grandchildren.
“In spite of knowing that the prime minster of this country is supporting this project we still have to have hope, because it is not about us, it is about the future.”
Sheila Leggett, the panel chair insisted the community’s voice would be heard as part of the hearings and thanked Laboucan for her presentation.
“We listen to everything that everybody says. It is a privilege to be in this position and to learn so much.”
Tuesday marked the end of the hearings in Edmonton and the panel will now move on to several communities in British Columbia that are on the pipeline route.