Friday April 18, 2014

Federal report met with skepticism from chiefs

Lawyer looks to find grounds for conciliation on Northern Gateway pipeline

Doug Eyford

B.C. First Nation leaders agree with a federally commissioned report calling for constructive dialogue about energy projects, but they remain skeptical that Ottawa will follow through.

Vancouver lawyer Doug Eyford — appointed in March to find grounds for conciliation amid tense federal review hearings on the Northern Gateway pipeline — released his report Thursday.

Eyford said that trust and reconciliation must be built between governments and First Nations. He also suggested that most aboriginal communities in B.C. and Alberta see the value and economic opportunity in energy developments, but want work to be done in an environmentally sustainable way that respects their rights.

Chief Mike LeBourdais of Pellt’iq’t First Nation (Whispering Pines/Clinton) was part of a teleconference with Eyford and is on side with his recommendations on issues such as revenue sharing. He’s not optimistic, though.

“I can almost see the eyes rolling back in Ottawa,” LeBourdais said on Friday. “This government is not proactive with First Nations. Look at Attawapiskat.”

The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs responded on a similar note.

“It is clear that Mr Eyford listened to our communities as many, if not all, of his recommendations reflect the public positions and statements of many First Nations standing against Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and Kinder Morgan’s proposed expansion of their Trans Mountain pipeline,” Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said in a news release.

“Unfortunately, many of his recommendations will be ignored,” he said, adding that the Harper government chooses to ignore legally recognized rights and title while showing contempt for environmental values and concerns.

Chief Bob Chamberlin, UBCIC vice-president, said the federal government weakened environmental safeguards and slashed agency budgets in order to bulldoze mega-projects into existence.

“The federal government must realize ‘No’ as a consultative process outcome must be respected as much as ‘Yes,’ ” he said.

LeBourdais said Ottawa could take a few pointers from Kinder Morgan, which has been negotiating with his band in good faith as it prepares to file its application for expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline. The line runs through Pellt’iq’t land.

“To be honest and quite frank, our negotiations with Kinder Morgan are better than those with government,” LeBourdais said. “You want to talk roadblocks, that’s what government does.”

Kinder Morgan had a steep learning curve, but they retained local expertise and joined the table. LeBourdais said the two parties could achieve a settlement early in the new year.

The company expects to submit its application for the $4.5-billion project to the NEB this month. Coincidentally, the Enbridge review panel’s report is due in the same time frame.

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