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Twenty-five years after the Berger pipeline inquiry

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."

The North of 2001 bears little resemblance to the North of Berger's time. The land is the same, and the oil is still there. But the people of the North have changed: most land claims have been settled, traditional ways of life have waned, and natives have control of their own destinies. The people who fought so fiercely against a Mackenzie Valley pipeline are now almost all in favour of building one.
• Most of the pipeline's opponents in the days of Berger now support pipeline construction. With a few notable exceptions, most land claims in the region have been resolved, and native groups are now in a position to benefit from development in the region. Improvements in education and a decline in traditional occupations mean that natives can now fill jobs that would have gone to southern workers.

• No Mackenzie Valley pipeline was built after the 10-year moratorium expired. A pipeline from Norman Wells, in the middle of the Northwest Territories, became operational in 1985, pumping 30,000 barrels of oil each day down the Mackenzie Valley to northern Alberta. It is a small pipeline, the first completely buried oil pipeline in Canada's permafrost region. Many see it as a pilot project for a future pipeline in the Mackenzie Valley or Delta.

• In 2002, gas companies began preparing an application to move gas from the Mackenzie Delta down the Mackenzie Valley to southern markets. An agreement between gas producers and a consortium of aboriginal groups will give aboriginal people one-third ownership of the pipeline. The Mackenzie Delta Producers Group and the Mackenzie Valley Aboriginal Pipeline Corp. hope to start laying pipe within four years.
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Oct. 31, 2001
Guest(s): George Barnaby, Jonas Kakfwi, Stephen Kakfwi, Mike Nadli, Frank T’Seleie, Margaret Norman Vandell
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Margo McDiarmid
Duration: 21:19

Last updated: August 2, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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