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Jubilant natives praise Berger's report

It was going to be the biggest private construction project in history. But before a pipeline could be built from the Beaufort Sea to energy-hungry markets in the south, the impact on the North's people, economy and environment had to be determined. That task was given to Justice Thomas Berger, who embarked on an extraordinary three-year odyssey across the Arctic. His report shocked the government that appointed him, and was heralded by some as "Canada's Native Charter of Rights."

It's nearly unanimous -- native leaders across Canada are delighted by the Berger Report. It goes beyond supporting the need to settle native land claims. George Manuel, president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, says the report is what his people have been demanding for years -- a true recognition of native problems and goals. He calls it "a charter of Indian rights, the best statement on native rights since the Europeans came to Canada."
• Not everyone was ecstatic about Berger's recommended pipeline moratorium. There was widespread criticism by the Métis and others, like N.W.T. Social Development minister Dave Nickerson, who felt that a 10-year moratorium would relax pressure to settle land claims, not increase it. Others, like Mackenzie Liard MLA Bill Lafferty, felt the social impact of not building a pipeline would be even more devastating, because young northerners who did not want to live traditional lifestyles would simply move away.

• Justice Berger's support of native rights eventually landed him in hot water with the federal government. His public support for the inclusion of aboriginal rights in the Constitution Act in 1982 was swiftly criticized by both his peers and by Prime Minister Trudeau. He was later censured by the Judicial Council of Canada for his "indiscreet" comments, prompting his resignation from the British Columbia Court of Appeals.
Medium: Radio
Program: Our Native Land
Broadcast Date: May 14, 1977
Guests: Harry Daniels, Andrew De L’Isle, George Manuel, Noel Starblanket
Host: Bob Charlie, Bernelda Wheeler
Duration: 11:49

Last updated: January 29, 2014

Page consulted on January 29, 2014

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