Time for some decisiveness here in Canadian politics. The govt has tried to spend its way out of this issue, but it doesn't seem to be working. Forget the UN. The last line talks of an army of lawyers mobilising, which would be okay if they weren't largely paid for by taxpayers.
Decrying Ottawa’s ‘bully tactics,’ B.C. natives vow to block pipeline - The Globe and Mail
B.C. first nations assert their right to veto Northern Gateway
OTTAWA— From Wednesday's Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, Mar. 13, 2012 12:03PM EDT
Last updated Tuesday, Mar. 13, 2012 7:29PM EDT
comments British Columbia first nations are asserting their right to veto the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, despite Ottawa’s insistence that it does not need their consent to proceed.
The controversial pipeline proposal appears headed for the Supreme Court of Canada, assuming it is approved by a joint panel now holding hearings and by the federal government.
Chief Jackie Thomas of the Saik’uz First Nation, was part of a delegation in Ottawa Tuesday meeting with opposition members of Parliament to build support for their anti-pipeline stand.
Representing the Yinka Dene Alliance, Ms. Thomas said her group will pursue a legal challenge if Ottawa approves the $5.5-billion pipeline over their objections.
“We will defend our rights, no matter what bully tactics the federal government throws at us,” she said. “Our decision has been made: Enbridge will never be allowed in our lands.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said that it is a top government priority to diversify crude oil exports beyond the traditional U.S. market to booming Asia, and that new pipelines to the West Coast are in the national interest.
Opponents say the pipeline is primarily in the interests of Alberta and the oil companies that are eager to expand production in the oil sands, and threatens ecosystems and the livelihood of communities in its path.
Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said Ottawa will fulfill its constitutional duty to consult with first nations affected by the Northern Gateway pipeline, but the decision will be made in the national interest.
“We have both a moral and constitutional obligation to consult with aboriginal communities in respect to these projects and we will of course do so,” Mr. Oliver said in a teleconference from Kuwait, where he was attending an international energy forum. “The law is they don’t have a veto, but they are certainly entitled to be consulted and accommodated.”
Ms. Thomas echoed the stand of many native leaders who believe that treaty law and international law give them the right to free, prior and informed consent over any project that traverses their traditional lands. But that view has not been upheld by Canadian judges.
“The courts so far have said pretty clearly that the duty to consult doesn’t encompass a veto power by aboriginal communities,” said Dwight Newman, a University of Saskatchewan professor who recently published a book on the subject. “But there is a lot of political advocacy outside the courts and a desire by some aboriginal communities to put it into the courts to argue for a higher standard of free, prior and informed consent.”
Ms. Thomas argues Ottawa has failed to meet its duty to consult by handing the issue over to Enbridge and a joint review panel made up of members of the National Energy Board and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.
Prof. Newman said Ottawa may rely on federal agencies to do the consulting, but the process is subject to challenge in the courts.
Nor is Ottawa bound by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – which sets out the need for free, prior and informed consent – even though the government has indicated its support for the declaration, Prof. Newman said. He said the declaration does not have the force of international treaty law.
Regardless of the jurisprudence, Ottawa would face a storm of protest if it approves an oil-sands pipeline project that traverses areas of B.C. that remain in dispute amid a stalled land-claims settlement process.
Enbridge should expect acts of civil disobedience if it builds over the objections of local native communities, said Dwight Nelson, an Ottawa-based consultant and lecturer at Carleton University.
“We’re going to see a huge outcry about indigenous human rights” if the pipeline proceeds, Mr. Nelson said. “You’re going to see blockades and other militant action, and you’ll definitely see lawyers in massive mobilization.”