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Council of Canadians supports First Nation opposition to Energy East pipeline

The Globe and Mail reports, “First Nations activists are turning their attention to TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Energy East project, vowing to mount the same kind of public opposition that threatens the Keystone XL pipeline in the United States and Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway in British Columbia. Some 70 First Nations leaders met in Winnipeg recently to plan a strategy they hope will block TransCanada’s ambitious plan to ship more than 1 million barrels a day of crude from Western Canada to refiners and export terminals in the East…”

La Presse adds (in French), “The meeting brought together activists and citizens, but the presence of grand chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs represents ‘a growing sense of unity’ among First Nations against the project, according to Clayton Thomas-Muller of the Indigenous Environmental Network.”

Council of Canadians energy and climate justice campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue presented an overview about the Energy East pipeline to that March 8 meeting in Winnipeg via Skype.

Thomas-Muller says, “In this era of the Harper Conservative government, there is dramatic pressure that has been placed on the shoulders of First Nations peoples, with our constitutionally protected rights, to defend Canada’s air, water and earth from the agenda of Big Oil and other extractive industries like the mining sector and the forestry sector. And so it will be First Nations’ interventions and the assertion of aboriginal and treaty rights that is going to stop the plan to build this 4,000-kilometre pipeline.”

We agree.

Last week, the Council of Canadians asked the Federal Court of Appeal to set aside the National Energy Board’s “List of Issues” of what it will consider in its deliberations about the pipeline. That list does not include the significant impacts the project will have on climate change emissions, the impacts of increased tar sands production on downstream First Nations or the fact that almost all of the crude shipped will be exported unrefined.

A recent Council of Canadians-organized speaking tour in Ontario against the pipeline featured Eriel Deranger of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. She says, “ACFN members are witnessing the rapid and wide-scale industrialization of their traditional lands for rapid tar sands production – lands that have sustained our communities, culture and distinctive ways of life for countless generations. Current production is large enough that 80 per cent of the traditional territories of the ACFN and Mikisew Cree First Nation are rendered inaccessible for periods of the year due to tar sands development.” Filling the Energy East pipeline would spur 650,000 to 750,000 barrels per day of additional production from the tar sands, a 40 per cent increase in extraction.

The Council of Canadians supports Indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior and informed consent and for nation-to-nation consultations with First Nations on issues such as pipelines. Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has stated, “We recognize and respect First Nations’ decisions to ban tar sands pipelines from their territories.”

The proposed pipeline would pass through or near at least 155 First Nation communities. We’ve listed the First Nation on or near the pipeline route here.