Indigenous

Chiefs express shock, relief to Energy East pipeline halt

TransCanada announced its decision to halt the $15.7 billion pipeline Thursday

Serge Simon

Serge Otis Simon, Grand Chief of the Kanasetake Mohawk Council represents about 2,500 members of Kanesatake, and says their traditional hunting territories would have been threatened by the pipeline. (Jason Warick/CBC)

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Chiefs in Eastern Canada say they're feeling a mixture of shock and relief after a major pipeline expansion across Canada was halted Thursday.

Kanesatake Mohawk Council Grand Chief Serge Simon said he felt a surge of jubilation when TransCanada announced its decision to halt the $15.7 billion Energy East pipeline.

"They were going to have a huge fight on their hands," said Simon from his community in Quebec.

"If they ran that pipe through our hunting grounds without our consent, well, that's a treaty violation. Section 35 under the constitution comes into play and International law comes into play."

Russ Girling, the Calgary-based energy company's chief executive officer, said in a statement that National Energy Board and Quebec officials will be informed TransCanada won't go forward with the applications.​

"We appreciate and are thankful for the support of labour, business and manufacturing organizations, industry, our customers, Irving Oil, various governments, and the approximately 200 municipalities who passed resolutions in favour of the projects," Girling said in a release.

"Most of all, we thank Canadians across the country who contributed towards the development of these initiatives."

The proposed project would have carried more than one million barrels of oil daily from Alberta and Saskatchewan across the country to be refined or exported from facilities in New Brunswick and Quebec.

It would have added 1,500 kilometres worth of new oil pipelines to an existing network of more than 3,000 kilometres.

US Keystone Pipeline Outlook 20170324

The Energy East pipeline would have stretched from Alberta to an export terminal in New Brunswick, and could have carried up to 1.1 million barrels of crude oil per day. (Alex Panetta/The Canadian Press)

Simon represents about 2,500 members of Kanesatake and says their traditional hunting territories would have been threatened by the pipeline.

The entire province of Quebec was opposed to Energy East, said Ghislain Picard, AFN Regional Chief for Quebec and Labrador.  He said he believes the project's cancellation was, in part, due to relentless lobbying on the ground.

However, the government said the move was one the company opted to make for itself, with Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr calling the cancellation a business decision, stating that "Conditions have changed... Commodity prices are not what they were then."

"I think the work of many peoples has paid off," said Picard, adding First Nations in the area are looking for economic gain through renewable energy.

"We have a big wind farm and small powered dams. But we all understand there's much work to be done. People need to adapt their habits to use less non-renewable energy."

Farther east in New Brunswick, the Eel Ground First Nation is also celebrating. The Energy East pipeline would have criss-crossed through unceded traditional Mi'qmaq lands and waterways that eventually drain into the community's Miramichi River.

It was a concern the band raised during the National Energy Board public hearings in Saint John, NB in 2016.

"We live on the Miramichi River," said Eel Ground Chief George Ginnish.

"One of our primary food and cultural subsistence comes from the Atlantic salmon. This pipeline was going to cross rivers that would feed our river from the southwest. Miramichi is the healthiest salmon river in our area and that was a massive concern for us."

Further consultation on the project was needed, including extensive ecological impact studies, said Ginnish.

"If the federal government increased the bar for environmental concerns — I'm glad they did — if they [TransCanada] feel that they can't meet those environmental targets, then they shouldn't build the pipeline," he added.

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