Wednesday, December 31, 2008

First Nations seek more involvement in Northern Gateway project

We catch up with some news after the Christmas break by back tracking to Christmas Eve's Daily News and an examination of the Northern Gateway project, the Enbridge pipeline plans, which currently are working their way through environmental assessments and preliminary planning.

With a pipeline that will be snaking through many First Nation's territories, the process will involve consultation and reviews from across the northern part of the province, last Wednesday's Daily News featured the impact of the pipeline on the Carrier Sekani lands and where they stand on the process so far.

The story was the front page, headline item in the Christmas Eve edition of the Daily News.

Carrier-Sekani claim meaningful review of pipeline plan needed in addition to funding
The Daily News
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Pages one and two

Carrier-Sekani Tribal Council Elected Chief David Luggi said his band has been offered a combined total of $830,000 to sign on to the federal government's environmental assessment of Enbridge Inc.'s Northern Gateway project.

The first $30,00 came from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, while the second was a whopping $800,000 offer from Enbridge officials.

But the elected chief thinks that really isn't enough to cover the cost of true participation and highlights why his nation wants an independent First Nations-led review of the project.

"What they are saying to our nation is if you want to participate in the (CEAA) process - or any other process - here is the form, you fill in the blanks and you get $30,00 for it," said Luggi.

The CSTC is currently seeking the right to conduct a First Nations Review process for the project following fears that the Stuart River and many creeks might be adversely affected by the project if there were oil spills.

The tribal council would need $2.4 million in funding to make the process work.

Luggi said the First Nation is not looking for a hand-out.

"We have been basically oppressed on our territories and been denied any chance for revenue-share in more recent years, governments have been deriving their revenues from production of natural resources - resources in our territories - fibre, minerals, and oil and gas. If you add up the requirements and call it a hand-out for infrastructure, it is a very tiny amount, if 'you add up the revenues that all the governments get compared to what we get," said Luggi.

Right now, First Nations have no decision-making authority in the process or the result and the decision making criteria under t IH' environmental assessment office legislation does not include any mandatory First Nations criteria.

In addition, the 2002 amendments to the Be Environmental Assessment Act removed a legislated role for First Nations from the process.

According to a letter sent to Luggi on June 22 by Enbridge's Director of Aboriginal Relations Leonie B. Rivers, the would-be pipeline builder offered the payment as part of a mutually agreeable protocol agreement on June 11 to CSTC Business Analyst Barry Vickers.

The offer came a full week before the company applied to have the project listed under review again after a two-year suspension.

"But what (Enbridge) said was we have to put on their handcuffs and get in to the National Energy Board process," said Luggi.

The letter, obtained by The Daily News, shows an offer that would have included clauses extending from confidentiality about the agreement itself, to an outline of communications between both Enbridge and csrc, and for the Tribal council to work hand-in-hand with Enbridge through the federal environmental assessment.

However, the CSTC rejected the offer on July 23, saying the federal EA was not sufficient to ensure its environmental concerns about the project were met and because the CSTC was not in a position to impose a protocol agreement on its eight member bands.
The federal government calls it consultation and that this is how the process works.

According to CEA Senior Communications Advisor Lucille Jamault, a letter was sent to 62 Aboriginal communities in October, including the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, inviting them to comment on the draft Joint Review Panel Agreement, which includes the panel Terms of Reference.

This comment period for Aboriginal groups comes prior to a 60-day public comment period on the agreement that will be held early in 2009.

"The agency is making available funding to Aboriginal communities to encourage their participation in the EA process and continues to provide information to these communities on how the EA process will function," said Jamault.

"Letters that were sent to FNs included an invitation to apply for participant funding (which is administered by the agency) along with a funding application form. To date, funding applications have been received however funds have not been disbursed for this project."

To be eligible for funding, Aboriginal groups must plan to engage in aboriginal consultation activities with the federal government that are linked to the EA of a project. Applicants must complete an application for funding. Successful applicants must sign a contribution agreement and submit a request for payment with supporting documentation before they can receive the funds.

Aboriginal groups are eligible to apply for funding if they can demonstrate that they have either direct local interest in the project, have community or Aboriginal traditional knowledge relevant to the EA; or have expert information relevant to the anticipated environmental effects of the project.

Luggi said that baseline studies and other data potentially completed by Enbridge to look a~ and analyze, requiring a lot more than $30,000 for the different experts needed to get beyond the opening pages of the such studies.

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