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Trudeau dodges question about duty to consult outside of NEB pipeline process

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The Liberal platform this past election stated, "We will renew the relationship between Canada and Indigenous Peoples. It is time for Canada to have a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous Peoples, based on recognition, rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership. This is both the right thing to do and a sure path to economic growth."

But APTN reports, "Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dodged a question Monday [Nov. 23] on whether his Liberal government would continue to rely on regulatory review bodies to execute Ottawa's duty to consult with First Nations on large resource and energy projects like TransCanada's proposed Energy East pipeline. ...Trudeau was asked how he planned to increase the level of consultation with First Nations... Trudeau dodged the question and instead said his government would be focusing on improving the Canadian public's trust through 'robust environmental and scientific oversight and regulation.' The Liberal government would build that public trust through 'the support of the communities that will be affected' and 'partnership with First Nation communities,' said Trudeau."

The article adds, "Earlier in the day, Natural Resources Canada said in a statement there would be no added consultation with First Nations on the Energy East pipeline outside of the NEB process, which includes hearings specifically geared to receiving traditional Indigenous oral testimony."

In a Facebook post, Manitoba Grand Chief Derek Nepinak comments, "Implementing the [Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations] and the [United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples] would require a consultation protocol outside of the National Energy Board (NEB) process... As it stands now, the only communities who are able to participate in the NEB consultation are the ones who can front the costs of participation in the hearings on a limited cost recovery budget. This means that if you don't have the money to pay for consultation, you don't get any consultation."

The Grand Chief highlights, "Literally hundreds of communities are having absolutely no say on tar sands and pipelines expansion at this moment despite being in the path of the destruction and climate change. ...Failure to demonstrate a willingness to create a standard of consultation to address tarsands expansion and pipelines in our ancestral lands would be a considerable failure on the part of the new Trudeau government as climate change and the abuse of freshwater are the most important issues for EVERYONE who wants to see a future where our children's children can live comfortably in a world that we protected for them..."

Other Indigenous leaders have made similar comments:

  • In September 2015, CBC reported, "Three New Brunswick First Nations are calling for a halt to preparations for review hearings on the Energy East pipeline project. The Woodstock, Madawaska and Tobique First Nations are upset participant funding for interveners has been cut. The National Energy Board has chopped the maximum funding limit for groups wanting to intervene at the review hearings to $40,000 from $80,000."
  • In February 2015, Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy, speaking on behalf of 133 First Nations communities in Ontario, called for a delay in the NEB approvals process for the Energy East pipeline to allow for a process of consultation and accommodation. Chief Beardy highlighted, "The Government of Canada must undertake robust consultation with First Nations on the Energy East Pipeline, and this consultation must form the basis of the Government's ultimate decision on the proposed project."
  • In January 2015, Treaty 3 Grand Chief Warren White, representing more than 25 Anishinaabe First Nations whose traditional territory is situated in northwestern Ontario, stated similar concerns about the lack of consultation on Energy East.

Beyond this, 70 First Nations leaders, including Grand Chief Nepinak, met in Winnipeg in March 2014 to plan a strategy to block the Energy East pipeline.

Clearly not understanding the situation, TransCanada chief executive officer Russ Girling commented earlier this year, "There are a lot of pent-up issues with the aboriginal communities that are totally unrelated to our pipeline but as the pipeline advances, it's a venue in which to vent your other frustrations."

The Council of Canadians is calling on the Trudeau government to halt the NEB review of the Energy East pipeline and to launch an immediate public review of Canada's environmental assessment processes. This review of regulatory laws, policies and operational practices must be done in full partnership and consultation with First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples, to ensure that the Crown is executing its consultation, accommodation, and consent obligations on energy project reviews and assessment, in accordance with its constitutional and international human rights obligations.

Photo: Prime Minister of Canada/flickr

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