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Energy East pipeline would cut across 180 First Nations

The Globe and Mail reports, “On its 4,000-kilometre path across the country, TransCanada Corp.’s Energy East’s pipeline would traverse the traditional territory of 180 different aboriginal communities, each of whom must be consulted and have their concerns accommodated as part of the company’s effort at winning project approval.”

“Calgary-based TransCanada has hired Phil Fontaine – former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations – to help it win the support of native communities from Alberta to New Brunswick. …Working with Mr. Fontaine, TransCanada has begun that process with the 180 aboriginal communities along its Energy East path. He acknowledged that pipeline companies face a special problem because the projects are linear and involve far more communities than a mine or oil sands project would touch.”

Energy East route map

“On Tuesday, First Nations leaders gathering in Gatineau, Que., will launch an effort to devise their own national energy strategy. …Native leaders are demanding to be treated as not just another stakeholder group but as full partners who have treaty rights that must be respected and historical grievances that must be addressed.”

“Resource companies have seen what happens when things go badly. Enbridge Inc. faces a wall of aboriginal opposition to its proposed Northern Gateway pipeline in British Columbia; First Nations have blocked logging roads in Quebec and mining roads in Ontario and activists have disrupted Southwestern Energy Co.’s shale-gas exploration in opposition to fracking on their traditional territory in New Brunswick.”

The Council of Canadians and FPIC

We recognize the need for free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) and the need for nation-to-nation negotiations to address these issues.

Last week a the signing of the Save the Fraser Declaration solidarity accord in Vancouver, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow stated, “We recognize and respect First Nations’ decisions to ban tar sands pipelines and tankers from their territories.” When we intervened in support of the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s title case at the Supreme Court, Barlow said, “We support Indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior and informed consent. They are the rightful stewards of their lands, and should be the ones to decide if and how they are developed.”

In late November, Barlow travelled to New Brunswick to express solidarity with the ongoing protests there to stop the seismic testing by Texas-based SWN Resources and to support the demand for the free, prior and informed consent needed on the unceded Mi’kmaq territory that is being defended. The Signitog District of Mi’kmaki covers most of New Brunswick south of the Miramichi River and a portion of Nova Scotia, where it borders New Brunswick.

Last October, when Barlow spoke in support of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation challenge against Shell’s Jackpine tar sands project expansion in Alberta, she stated, “The ACFN is arguing that the increase in oil production (big enough to supply both the proposed Gateway pipeline and the existing Kinder Morgan pipeline) would destroy water, air and wilderness in a vast area of their territory. I brought words of solidarity to this struggle and said this Shell expansion would not only violate the treaty rights of First Nations, but their rights under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and their right to water under the new UN recognition of this right.”

And she has also highlighted that First Nations leadership, Treaties, and Aboriginal rights may be the last bulwark in stopping the Harper agenda of environmentally devastating resource extraction projects and pipelines that are to be on or run through First Nations territories.

The Energy East pipeline

Energy East would be a 4,400 kilometre pipeline stretching from Alberta to New Brunswick. It would carry 1.1 million barrels of crude oil per day from Alberta and Saskatchewan. The company would convert 3,000 kilometres of an existing natural gas pipeline to Quebec and build an additional 1,400 kilometres of pipeline from there to New Brunswick. Its terminus there would be the Irving Refinery and its deep water port in Saint John. 

Exporting from the deep water port in Saint John could mean 30 oil tankers a month travelling through the Bay of Fundy to markets in India, China and Europe. Communities on the Bay of Fundy shoreline include St. Andrews, Blacks Harbour, and Sackville in New Brunswick and Amherst, Truro, Wolfville and Digby in Nova Scotia.

It is expected that TransCanada will seek approval from the National Energy Board for the pipeline in early 2014. The portion of the pipeline to Quebec could be converted by 2017, the pipeline to New Brunswick completed and operational by 2018.