“We Will Be the Ones to Stop This”: Grand Chief Voices Impassioned Opposition to Energy East

“I do not want to be the grand chief who consented to a pipeline that’s going to destroy 30 per cent of the fresh water in Ontario, in Treaty 3 territory,” Treaty 3 Grand Chief Warren White said in a speech outlining his objections to TransCanada’s proposed Energy East oil pipeline last week.

“I did not come here for consultation. I came here to let everyone know what Energy East is all about…In unity in Treaty 3 we will be the ones to stop this. Our communities, our youth, our leadership are being called on by other nations,” White, while presenting at a public meeting hosted by the Ontario Energy Board in Kenora, Ontario, stated.

TransCanada “low balled” and “tried to pull a fast one” on Treaty 3 chiefs, according to White. The pipeline company agreed to participate in a consultation process based on Treaty 3 Resource Law or Manito Aki Inakonigaawin in Anishinaabe (Ojibwe), but failed to actually engaged in the process. TransCanada was a no-show for a meeting with Treaty 3 chiefs on December 21st last year.

“I am very upset right now and you put that in your report that Energy East, TransCanada whatever you wanna call it, are there for the dollar signs, and nothing about the land, nothing about how we survive,” White said.

"I do not want to be the grand chief that’s remembered as, 'all he wanted was the money.' I do not want to be the grand chief known as the destroyer of the lands, waters, sacred sites, rivers, trees, animals, birds…We are going to get another Grassy Narrows situation, an oil spill will happen no matter how safe you guys say it is.”

If approved, the 1.1 million barrel a day pipeline stretching from Alberta to New Brunswick would operate on Treaty 3 territory. The Treaty 3 First Nation represents over twenty-five Anishinaabe First Nations whose traditional territory covers an area of northwestern Ontario larger than Newfoundland.

White’s speech was part of the ongoing public consultations Ontario’s energy regulator – Ontario Energy Board  is conducting with communities and First Nations along Energy East’s proposed route in northern and eastern Ontario. The board will be in Ottawa Thursday.

The provincial government claimed it will partly base its position on Energy East in light of the board’s findings. Ontario plans on arguing its case for or against Energy East at the National Energy Board (NEB) hearings on the pipeline project expected to take place later this year.

Ontario has identified seven conditions for its approval of the pipeline. Included is the condition that “proponents and governments” fulfill their constitutional duty to consult with the province’s First Nations on the project.

“When you send me correspondence and I never participated that does not constitute consultation. We keep hearing [from] government about meaningful consultation, the duty to consult. I never consented to be part of this [regulatory] process,” White told the Ontario Energy Board.

The federal government has the constitutional duty to consult with First Nations, Metis and Inuit on projects that may infringe upon their aboriginal and treaty rights according to the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Haida First Nation vs British Columbia in 2004. There is no indication yet that the federal government plans to fulfill this legal duty in the case of Energy East.

White expressed his lack of faith that the Ontario Energy Board and National Energy Board processes are interested in protecting Treaty 3 rights:

“No matter what we say as intervenor or [in] protest to the Ontario Energy Board and National Energy Board we know you are still going to move forward [with the pipeline], but without our consent,” White said.

Ontario, although calling itself a “climate leader,” has come under fire recently from pipeline critics for weakening its stance on Energy East. Premier Kathleen Wynne announced last December the province would not take into account the potential upstream greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of Energy East when deciding whether to support the project.

The Ontario Energy Board has also been criticized for its claims Energy East, North America’s largest proposed pipeline project, will likely have a “relatively modest” impact on GHG emissions in Canada.

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