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Alberta fires back at UN committee for criticism of energy megaprojects

The United Nations is an unelected, unaccountable body that has no business criticizing Canada's energy megaprojects, says Alberta's energy minister.

United Nations calls for halt of Trans Mountain, Site C and Coastal GasLink

Pipe for the Trans Mountain Pipeline being unloaded in Edson, Alta., in June 2019. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

The United Nations is an unelected, unaccountable body that has no business criticizing Canada's energy megaprojects, says Alberta's energy minister.

In a statement, Sonya Savage said it's the job of elected leaders, not the UN, to make decisions about how best to govern people and economies.

The UN's Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has urged Canada to stop work on three major resource projects — including the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion — until it obtains approval from affected First Nations.

The committee, in a directive last month, said it's worried that work is going ahead without free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous groups.

Savage said the committee ignored the majority of First Nations groups that support projects such as Trans Mountain and the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline.

She said the criticism is unfair and out of context, given Canada's track record on making sure all voices are heard.

"With all the injustice in the world, it's beyond rich that the unelected, unaccountable United Nations would seemingly single out Canada — one of the greatest champions of human rights, democracy and the rule of law," Savage said Tuesday.

"Canada's duly elected representatives — not unaccountable international committees — are responsible for governing decisions in this country."

The committee cites three projects: Trans Mountain, Site C and Coastal GasLink.

Trans Mountain Corp., the federal Crown corporation building the pipeline expansion from Alberta to the British Columbia coast, said it is moving forward with construction safely and in respect of communities.

BC Hydro said it has been consulting with affected First Nations on the Site C hydroelectric dam since 2007 and has reached benefit agreements with most of them.

The UN committee has previously called for a halt to Site C, which is opposed by the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations in northeastern British Columbia.

However, this marks the first time it has called for a stop to the Trans Mountain and Coastal GasLink projects.

Members of the Wet'suwet'en have tried to block construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline near Smithers, B.C. The natural gas pipeline is part of a $40-billion LNG Canada project.

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