Saturday, January 13, 2007

Skeena MP chastises City Council over percolating Port issue

Nathan Cullen, the MP for Skeena, lobbed an unwanted grenade at Mayor Herb Pond and his city council on Friday, over the ongoing First Nations concerns over the Fairview Container Port issue.

Cullen is quoted in the Daily News as being “still disappointed with the lack of response I am getting from the city of Prince Rupert.” A perception that has the Mayor more than a little puzzled and more than a little annoyed, that the MP had decided to use the front page of the Daily News to vent whatever frustrations he might have.

With a court date looming on the horizon over First Nations claims of the federal government’s alleged failure to consult and accommodate over the construction of the Fairview Container Terminal, the percolating issue all of a sudden has made it back on to the front burner.

Pond seemed taken aback at the suggestion by Cullen that the city was not working hard enough to secure a settlement in the issue, though he wondered aloud in the paper what it is that Cullen expected the city to do over a situation of which it has no jurisdiction.

Pond did state that as a council they had take steps to make sure that the city’s neighbours received the attention their concerns deserved, but that short of that the city hasn’t really any place in the direct negotiations.

Coming as it did out of left field; the return of the story to the front page will once again stoke concerns over the future of the project and any potential expansion in the future. The issue could make for another bout of uncertainty, as the court challenges play out in Ottawa at Federal Court, with the second challenge expected to be heard by the end of February.

It was the topic of conversation Friday, as the Daily News provided a forum for Cullen’s concerns over this most important of local issues.

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Friday, January 12, 2007

There could be a resolution to the Coast Tsimshian’s concerns about the federal government’s alleged failure to consult and accommodate over the construction of the Fairview Container Terminal before it goes to court again, said Skeena Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen. But only if the city of Prince Rupert is willing to get involved.

“I know the two leaders, First Nations, are very keen but I am still disappointed with the lack of response I am getting from the city of Prince Rupert,” said Cullen. “I think their leadership at the community level there, city council, needs to step in to this and be part of the solution. It’s time for us to get moving and the possibilities are good for that to happen.”

The clock is ticking because the second of two legal challenges will be heard by the Federal Court of Canada at the end of February.

Cullen said he has spoken to some people involved in the process in the last few days.
“I think there’s been some movement. A window remains open for us to resolve this issue without using the courts ...” he said.

Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond was bewildered by Cullen’s comments.

“I think the MP would have to explain what role the city would have in federal negotiations with First Nations,” said Pond. “Quite frankly, our position is that we have none.”

He said the city has worked hard to ensure their First Nations partners have the ear of the people they are talking to about the negotiations, but any direct presence in any negotiation, even if the city were invited, would slow things down and they don’t want to do that.

“And we don’t think that the front page of a newspaper is a place to solve this problem as our MP thinks it is,” he said.

Rather, the city will continue its role in working toward ensuring that Phase 1 is a success and Phase 2 follows closely while at the same time, working to help their neighbours, he said.
The second of two legal challenges is scheduled to be heard by the Federal Court of Canada Feb. 26. This legal challenges seeks a judicial review by the two bands — Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams — of the federal government’s decision to fund $30 million of the project prior to completing consultation and accommodation.

The application seeks an order that the Ministry of Western Economic Diversification is in violation of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act for failing to consult First Nations.
It also seeks a comprehensive environmental review of the project. Phase One of the development only underwent a screening assessment because it was considered a conversion of an existing facility and not new construction.

The first legal challenge by the two bands against the Ministry of Transportation — for failure to consult only on the small new portions of construction rather than the whole project — was dismissed by the court last September. The Justice ruled that while “the Crown’s consultations were unreasonable ... the application is not granted because of procedural defects.”

He went on to say that the two bands could continue trying to have their concerns heard by pursuing “the judicial review application that has already been filed with the Federal Court regarding ... announcement that $30 million in funding would be provided by the Canadian Government to Prince Rupert Port Authority for the conversion of the Fairview Terminal.”

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