First Nation communities voice concerns as pipeline hearings wrap up in N.B.
Six New Brunswick First Nation communities sent a strong message to the National Energy Board on Tuesday as the Energy East pipeline hearings in Fredericton came to a close.
“This project will destroy the areas that were traditionally used for ceremonies and to keep my people and traditions alive,” said Kingsclear First Nation Chief Gabriel Atwin.
Kingsclear, Oromocto, St. Mary's, Tobique, Woodstock, and Madawaska Maliseet First Nations all co-ordinated their messages.
“We wanted to see things we agreed on and use our time wisely and more powerfully to each take a stance on those issues, so we each had 20 minutes,” said Megan Fullerton of St. Mary's First Nation.
None of the First Nation communities in attendance said they were outright opposed to the pipeline. Instead, they said TransCanada had not demonstrated how the project would benefit First Nation communities or impact the environment.
There was also the question of how TransCanada approaches First Nation consent.
“We have title to this territory and in this process if it's not imperative, it's at least mandatory that they get our consent and that's what my question was at the end,” said Russ Letica of Madawaska Maliseet First Nation.
John Van der Put, TransCanada’s vice president of eastern oil pipeline projects, would not comment on the issue of First Nation consent.
“What I can say is that we have said in the context of these community panel sessions that we will absolutely strive to thoroughly understand First Nation issues. We will mitigate them and thereby strive to achieve consent,” said Van der Put.
TransCanada stresses nothing, including the pipeline route, has been finalized.
“Here in New Brunswick, we've made 100 separate changes to our pipeline route, taking into consideration specific issues and concerns brought forward to us,” said Van der Put.
Out of Tuesday’s eight interveners, only the Union of Municipalities of New Brunswick gave any kind of an endorsement to the project.
“We recognize the benefit of the pipeline to our member municipalities, not just along the route but also from suppliers and contractors throughout New Brunswick,” said Arthur Slipp of the union.
The provincial government says an upstream emissions study from the federal Department of Environment and Climate Change would happen at the same time as the NEB approval process. Government says that could cut nine months off the total review timeframe.
The NEB hearings will move to Montreal on Aug. 29.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Nick Moore.