Reconciliation Means Overhaul of Oilsands Pipeline Reviews, First Nations Tell Trudeau

Three prominent First Nations organizations are calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to cancel the regulatory reviews of three major oilsands pipelines as a step towards reconciliation between Canada and First Nations.

“First Nations and Canada have a lot of work to do regarding measures needed to finally put us all on the path of reconciliation and partnership,” the joint letter to Trudeau, signed by the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, states.

“We focus here on one such measure — the overhaul of the review and assessment process for tar sands export pipelines.”

Earlier this week, Trudeau was on hand as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada unveiled its final report on the Indian Residential Schools. During the closing ceremony, Trudeau gave his word to “renew and respect” Canada’s relationship with indigenous peoples in the country.

“Our First Nations in British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec call 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,” the letter adds.

The three pipeline projects at issue in the letter are KinderMorgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline, TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline and Enbridge’s Line 3, all of which are currently under review by the National Energy Board (NEB), Canada’s federal pipeline regulator.

Trudeau has promised to overhaul the NEB to ensure more thorough assessments of proposed pipelines (including a climate test), but stopped short of making this a requirement for projects currently under review.

According to Canada’s new Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr, no proponent of a pipeline project under review right now will be required “to go back to square one.”

“At a time when our First Nations are already suffering major climate change related impacts to their ways of life, the full consideration of climate change impacts has to be a major focus of any new review and assessment process for the pipelines,” the letter states.

“Our Indigenous laws tell us that actions have consequences. Mother Earth is giving us signs that she is out of balance. Climate change is one of these signs.”

The group also accused the NEB of being an “industry-captured ‘rubber stamper.’" They raised concerns about an apparent revolving door between the energy industry and the regulator.

Last August, energy consultant Steven Kelly was appointed to the board by the Harper government, despite having been hired by Kinder Morgan two years prior to conduct an economic analysis of the Trans Mountain pipeline project in B.C.

“The NEB's conflict of interest issues need to be urgently resolved,” the letter concludes.

This is the second letter the Prime Minister has received this month calling on him to intervene in a pipeline project. Last week, eighty organizations in Quebec and Ontario including Greenpeace and Equiterre and two First Nations demanded Trudeau stop the recently reopened Line 9 pipeline.

“We urge the federal government to halt the Line 9 project until it can be subjected to a subsequent review under more robust, transparent, and democratic conditions,” the December 9th letter states.

“It is our strongly-held conviction that the prior government’s support for the NEB structure and review process has resulted in an erroneous decision that threatens communities, water sources, local ecosystems, and the planet,” the letter adds.

Image Credit: US State Department

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