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Justice Berger prepares for his inquiry

The Story


The Mackenzie pipeline is a political hot potato, and it prompts Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Jean Chrétien to make a surprising appointment. British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Thomas Berger, a prominent civil and native rights lawyer and former leader of the B.C. New Democratic Party, is given a daunting task. He is to traverse the North and ask experts and villagers alike what social, economic and environmental changes a pipeline would bring.

Medium: Radio
Program: This Country in the Morning
Broadcast Date: Dec. 5, 1974
Guest(s): Thomas Berger
Host: Michael Enright
Duration: 13:03

Did You know?


• Justice Thomas Berger was appointed to the Supreme Court of British Columbia in 1971 and served there for more than a decade. On March 21, 1974, he was appointed by the federal government of Pierre Trudeau to head the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry, which quickly became known as the Berger Inquiry.
• Thomas Berger once headed the B.C. New Democratic Party, making him an unusual Liberal appointee. However, the Liberal minority government of the time depended on NDP support.

• Native land claims were a primary concern of those interested in pipeline development. Two important decisions had been made in 1973: the Calder Case, concerning Nisga'a land claims over B.C.'s Nass Valley, and the Paulette Case in the Northwest Territories. Thomas Berger was lead council for the Nisga'a in the Calder Case; a split decision by the Supreme Court of Canada opened the door to land claim negotiations with the federal government.

• Thomas Berger has headed three royal commissions and received the Order of Canada in 1990.
• In 1992 the World Bank asked Berger to head a commission to examine the social and environmental impacts of the Sardar Sarovar dam project in India. In 1997 he went to Chile to assess a dam on the Biobio River.
• Berger has written two books on human rights. In 2001 he represented British Columbia in a lawsuit against tobacco companies.


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The Berger Pipeline Inquiry more