APTN National News
TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline project won’t undergo an additional approval process to deal specifically with the Crown’s duty to consult with First Nations, according to Natural Resources Canada.
The National Energy Board (NEB) will remain as the sole regulatory body that will review the project which aims to transport Alberta and Saskatchewan oil 4,600 kilometres across the country to Saint John, N.B., the department said in a statement Monday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent mandate letters to his cabinet signalling Ottawa would be prioritizing the relationship between the Crown and First Nations along with his commitment to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples led to speculation the Liberal government would be creating a process specifically designed to deal with consultation on large energy and resource projects.
The Harper government had previously decided that it would rely on the NEB hearing process to meet the Crown’s duty to consult with First Nations on the Energy East pipeline project and it appears that won’t change under the Trudeau Liberals.
“The Energy East project will undergo a robust review once a complete application is submitted to the National Energy Board,” according to a statement from Natural Resources Canada.
The statement came in response to a question from APTN asking whether there would be a process specifically focused on the duty to consult.
The NEB is currently hearing oral traditional evidence from Indigenous intervenors until Dec. 15.
The NEB has stated that part of the Energy East hearing process focuses specifically on the potential impacts on “Aboriginal interests” in addition to requiring TransCanada to submit “specific information regarding consultation they have undertaken with Aboriginal groups.”
TransCanada has not yet completed its application for Energy East. The energy firm is expected to submit amendments to its proposal before the end of the year, according to the NEB.
While some First Nations, like the Mohawks of Kanesatake, have stated they oppose the project, others say their support is contingent on certain requirements.
The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) Chief Bobby Cameron has said support for the project depends on Ottawa, Saskatchewan and TransCanada creating a proper consultation process. Cameron also said Saskatchewan First Nations expect impact benefit agreements and annual royalties from the project.
The Energy East pipeline would cross the territories of 155 First Nations.
Trudeau is planning to meet with Indigenous leaders sometime in mid-December for what many believe will be the beginning of a process similar to what led to the creation of the Kelowna Accord in the dying days of the Liberal government of Paul Martin.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde is a former FSIN chief.
The Trudeau government supports the proposed Energy East pipeline. It also plans to impose a moratorium on tanker traffic on the West Coast, essentially killing the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline project proposed by Enbridge.