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First Nations leaders call for pipeline review process to be stopped

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Photo: Council of Canadians

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The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, and the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs have written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to ask that his government fulfill its pledge to overhaul the review and assessment process for tar sands export pipelines.

Their open letter notes specifically the reviews for the Energy East, Trans Mountain and Line 3 pipelines.

They highlight, "The current system, a product of the unconstitutional Omnibus Bills C-38 and C-45 which First Nations vigorously opposed, has: recklessly compressed pipeline reviews; sidelined critics; excluded essential considerations such as climate change; and violated Indigenous rights and sovereignty. Meanwhile, the National Energy Board (NEB) is no longer an independent arbiter in such reviews. It has become a politicized and industry-captured 'rubber stamper' that pays only lip service to the respect for the positions and rights of First Nations."

They specify:

"The current review and assessment process for the above pipelines has violated:

  • The Crown's Constitutional consultation and accommodation duties.
  • The Aboriginal Title, Aboriginal Rights and Treaty Rights of First Nations, which are all protected by the Constitution of Canada as well as the Royal Proclamation.
  • The Principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (which we were very happy to hear that Canada will finally implement).
  • The bans instituted by a number of First Nations, including under their inherent authority and jurisdiction over their territory pursuant to their own Indigenous laws and customs, refusing passage to the pipelines as a result of the unacceptable risks and impacts that they present for such First Nations."

They note "some of the most egregious flaws in the NEB process" including, "The lack of anything close to adequate funding for First Nation participants has been a critical defect of the NEB process. In the case of the Energy East review for example, the NEB recently slashed the amount of funding available in half, from the long promised but inadequate amount of $80,000 to the truly meager amount of $40,000. Such inadequate funding severely limits First Nations' meaningful participation and represents both a failure of the Federal Crown's duty to consult as well as a breach of the rules of natural justice."

And they point out that the current pipeline review process excludes consideration of greenhouse gas emissions. Their letter notes, "First Nations were never consulted on the original decisions to exclude such a critical issue from the NEB reviews and the NEB's continued refusal to reconsider such exclusion makes their reviews completely devoid of legitimacy."

The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, and the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs conclude their letter to the prime minister by calling "for the establishment of a new pipeline review and assessment process, to be developed and implemented in collaboration with First Nations, that will enable a thorough and objective environmental assessment of these pipelines that respects our rights under the Constitution of Canada as well as under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples."

The Council of Canadians fully supports the demand by First Nations in British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec to immediately cancel the NEB review processes for the Energy East, Trans Mountain and Line 3 pipelines.

The Trudeau government will have to make its decision on this request very soon. According to the National Energy Board website, "The hearing panel [for the Trans Mountain pipeline application] will hear oral summary argument from intervenors in two phases: first, from January 19–29, 2016 at the Delta Burnaby Hotel and Conference Centre in Burnaby, British Columbia; and second in the NEB Hearing Room, Calgary, Alberta from February 2-5, 2016."

To add your voice to the demand by First Nations that the pipeline reviews be halted, please go to the Council of Canadians action alert Keep your promises, Liberals: Stop pipeline reviews and send a letter to the prime minister, key ministers and opposition party leaders before the pipeline reviews recommence on January 19, 2016.

During the election, the Liberal government has promised "a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples, based on recognition, rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership." The time is now to make good on that promise by stopping the current pipeline reviews and establishing a new review process in collaboration with First Nations.

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