Montreal

Energy East pipeline: French-language protection groups in court

TransCanada's controversial Energy East pipeline project is facing a potential hurdle over language concerns in Quebec, with a lawyer arguing in court today in Montreal that full information needs to be provided in French before public hearings are held.

TransCanada's latest obstacle in $12B plan for pipeline to carry western crude to eastern refineries

The Irving Oil refinery in Saint John is the final destination for TransCanada's proposed 4,600-kilometre Energy East pipeline. The project has faced obstacles, including concerns by environmental and language-protection groups. (Devaan Ingraham/Reuters)

TransCanada's controversial Energy East pipeline project is facing a potential hurdle over language concerns in Quebec, with a lawyer arguing in court today that full information needs to be provided in French before public hearings are held.

Samuel Bachand, representing the Quebec Environmental Law Centre, argued in Federal Court in Montreal that francophones should have access to more than a partial proposal before deciding whether they want to participate in the hearings.

The deadline to apply to take part in the consultations closes March 3.

The Quebec Environmental Law Centre, along with environmental groups including the David Suzuki Foundation and Greenpeace, has teamed up with language-protection groups —  the separatist Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society and the Mouvement Québec français — to argue not enough information about the pipeline is being made available in French.

They were in court Tuesday on behalf of a francophone landowner to ask a judge to force the National Energy Board to hold off on public hearings into the pipeline project.

“People in Quebec and other francophones across Canada are now having to apply without having an official French-language translation within the process,” said Karine Péloffy of the Quebec Environmental Law Centre, before Tuesday's hearing began.

It’s the latest obstacle to TransCanada’s $12-billion plan for the 4,600-kilometre pipeline, which would carry western crude to eastern refineries and new markets across the Atlantic.

A port facility in the St. Lawrence River is already on hold after a Quebec judge granted an injunction to protect beluga whales.

Translations available, company says

TransCanada contends the vast bulk of the documentation is available in both languages on the company's website. The company will seek intervener status.

Tim Duboyce, a spokesman for the company, said it will work hard to ensure anyone who wants documentation on the Energy East project in French can get it.

“They can get it on our French-language website, and it's all there, there's a big button there on the page and there's actually a direct link from the National Energy Board's website that points people to ours,” he said.

For its part, the NEB has argued that if TransCanada is forced to submit all its documentation in French, then francophone groups would also be required to submit translations of their information in English.

On Tuesday afternoon, the judge said on Tuesday afternoon that he will issue a decision at the end of this week, or next Monday.

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