Energy East Pipeline hearings protest peeves Natural Resources minister

The Federal Minister of Natural Resources is unimpressed that the Energy East Pipeline hearings were cancelled Monday after protesters stormed the hearing room in Montreal.

'Everyone should have a right to express themselves, and that's a fundamental Canadian value'

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr speaks to reporters in Edmonton on Monday as Amarjeet Sohi, minister of infrastructure and communities, looks on. (CBC)

The federal minister of natural resources said Monday he's concerned that protesters were able to shut down the Energy East Pipeline hearings after storming the hearing room in Montreal.

"The whole operation is designed to hear from Canadians, whatever their point of view might be," said Jim Carr, who was in Edmonton speaking to a business group.

"If there were circumstances this morning that didn't allow people to speak on a very important national subject, I'm sorry about that," Carr said.

"Not everyone's going to agree. But everyone should have a right to express themselves, and that's a fundamental Canadian value."

It's now up to the National Energy Board to decide how to proceed, Carr said.

The hearings on the proposed pipeline, which would transport crude oil from Alberta to Eastern Canada, were set to begin with Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre as the first to speak.

Coderre has questioned several times whether the potential environmental risks outweigh the economic benefits of the pipeline.

More hearings postponed

On Monday, the hearings were quickly cancelled after protesters stampeded into the room, prompting the commissioners to leave. The protests resulted in at least two arrests.

Late in the day, the NEB announced Tuesday's panel sessions in Montreal would be postponed.

"Our first priority at any hearing is always the safety of all participants, including the public, our staff and our board members," the board said in a statement.

"Our goal for the panel sessions was to provide an opportunity for intervenors to ask questions about the Energy East application and share what matters most to them in a respectful, courteous and safe environment. Unfortunately, that is not what happened today. Disruptions such as those that occurred this morning, prevent intervenors from sharing their views and asking their questions."

The board said it will provide more information once it has determined how to hear presentations from intervenors in Montreal who were scheduled to present Monday and Tuesday.

The hearings are expected to wrap up in December, with the board due to submit its report by March 2018.