Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the Northern Gateway decision was made in the best interest of nearby communities. But if 31 First Nations and Métis groups lose out, was it really?
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>>> November 29 was a big day for Alberta’s oil and gas industry. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the approval of two major pipelines: Enbridge’s Line 3 and Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion. The $6.8-billion Trans Mountain project will nearly triple its crude oil capacity to 890,000 barrels a day, while the Line 3 replacement will double its output to 760,000 barrels a day.
But not all applications got the go-ahead. Trudeau struck down the much-contested Northern Gateway pipeline, which was little surprise to many. The project saw major pushback from environmentalists, First Nations and key political figures like Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, who said, “allowing supertankers into the Douglas Channel would be madness, and a spill would be catastrophic to the economy of the entire region.” In Trudeau’s comments, he considered the pipeline’s route through the Great Bear Rainforest and the Douglas Channel and said the project “is not in the best interests of local affected communities, including indigenous peoples.”
A day after the announcement, Enbridge CEO Al Monaco received the Alberta Business Person of the Year award. In his acceptance speech, Monaco took a very different stance on the decision’s impact, especially when considering a missed opportunity for indigenous Canadians. “They’ve been signaling that for a while, so we’re not surprised,” Monaco said of the federal decision, “although it’s unfortunate Canada has missed this opportunity to have a nationbuilding project one-third owned by First Nations and Métis.”
The voice that was seldom heard in the Northern Gateway cacophony – and which is seldom heard in development projects across the country and the continent – is the voice of indigenous people who favour a particular development. Had Northern Gateway been built, an unprecedented one-third of it would have been owned by a group of 31 First Nations and Métis communities through the Aboriginal Equity Partners, representing about 60 per cent of aboriginal communities along the route. Its loss will come as an economic blow to them. The AEP responded to the announcement with frustration that the prime minister, “who campaigned on a promise of reconciliation with indigenous communities would now blatantly choose to deny our 31 First Nations and Métis communities of our constitutionally protected right to economic development.”
It’s time to rewrite the narrative that all First Nations communities are rife with hostility towards pipeline and other industrial developments, when 10 years of consultation between Enbridge and indigenous communities resulted in an agreement that would have brought $2 billion in long-term economic and business opportunities for surrounding communities, with a 33 per cent ownership share and control of a key piece of Canada’s infrastructure. –
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces his government’s decisions regarding three pipelines - two got the thumbs up