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Gateway pipeline seen as done deal
First Nations and Métis in northwestern Alberta are resigned to the belief that the provincial government will give the nod to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline.
“I probably think that no matter what we say or do, the project will go forward. When you have the federal government supporting this project, it’s pretty hard for a few Aboriginal people like us to say anything or do anything to be able to stop the project. So all we can do, I guess, is do our best to ensure that our concerns are heard and addressed,” Gerald Cunningham, chair of the East Prairie Métis Settlement, told the Joint Review Panel for Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Project.
The panel was in Grande Prairie on a three-day stop at the end of March. On the second day, the three-member panel listened to oral presentations from settlement members as well as Horse Lake First Nation and the Métis Nation of Alberta-Region 6.
Being heard officially during the Enbridge process has presented a challenge for the Métis, said Region 6 president Sylvia Johnson. She said East Prairie Métis Settlement has not been included in Enbridge’s official consultation process because the settlement’s boundaries fall five kilometres outside of the 80 km radius Enbridge set for consulting with communities.
“I’d like to say that the Métis of the northwest region really want to be consulted. We feel we have a duty to be consulted. We have many, many people living along the area. We have many communities. Most of our communities are still rural, traditional communities,” said Johnson.
The panel heard that the proposed pipeline will cut through traditional hunting, trapping, fishing and gathering territories, which have already been impacted by previous development. The pipeline will also cross or run near a number of rivers. The course of the pipeline will impact their way of life, say Aboriginal members, and of dire concern is the impact a possible spill will have.
“I’d like to make sure that maybe you guys could ensure us that, you know, they’re not going to cut corners when they build these pipelines, that, you know, they’re going to be well-protected so the whole life of the — whatever they say, the 25-30 years that it’s going to be in the ground, because, you know, it’s a big thing if something ever happens to that line — big oil spill in that area. …,” said Casey Horseman, of Horse Lake First Nation.
Both the Métis and First Nations say they are not opposed to development, but the project had to proceed with caution.
“From the oil and gas and everything else that’s coming in, forestry, all the impacts that are impacting the communities…. I can only say that it is cumulative,” said Audrey Horseman, director of the Industry Relations Corporation of the Horse Lake First Nations.
The panel also heard from the Kelly Lake Cree Nation, Kelly Lake Métis Settlement, and Saulteau First Nation from British Columbia; Alberta Lands, which owns property in BC which is in the vicinity of the Gateway development; a councillor from the Town of Valleyview; and three Peace region community members.
The panel moved on to Bella Bella, BC, where members were met by protestors at the airport. The panel initially cancelled the four days of hearings scheduled for the community citing security issues. However, Heiltsuk First Nation Chief Marilyn Slett met with the panel and hearings were resumed a day later. However, the missed day will not be rescheduled.
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