Mohawk leaders uncertain they'll take part when Montreal's Energy East hearings resume

The grand chiefs from Kanesatake and Kahnawake haven't decided whether to participate in the National Energy Board hearings when they eventually resume in Montreal, with both men saying they already had misgivings about the process.

Grand chiefs from Kanesatake and Kahnawake express misgivings about NEB approval processs

Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Otsi Simon called the NEB Energy East pipeline hearings a 'circus,' and is questioning whether to participate. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

The grand chiefs of two Quebec Mohawk First Nations say they have not decided whether to participate in the National Energy Board hearings on the Energy East pipeline when they resume.

Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Otsi Simon and Kahnawake Grand Chief Joe Norton were scheduled to appear at the first day of hearings Monday, but protesters disrupted the proceedings as they were about to begin, resulting in their postponement.

The NEB cancelled the hearings for both Monday and Tuesday. It is expected to provide details later Tuesday about when the hearings will continue.

"It shows you what a circus this whole process has been," Simon said at a news conference on Monday. 

Both men said they already had misgivings about the process and debated taking part.

"We don't have any faith in the structure that's put there," Norton said.

Norton said the pipeline violates aboriginal land rights, and communicating that position is the only reason he would testify.

"You're asked the type of questions that make it very difficult to answer, because it's somebody else's rules, not ours," he said.

Norton said it's "incumbent on us to make sure we have our voice heard in terms of being responsible for the land, being responsible for ensuring the health and safety of our peoples."

'Safeguarding our environment'

For his part, Simon said he's concerned the pipeline would pass through the Ottawa River and close to his community, which hugs the north shore of Lake of Two Mountains, about 60 kilometres due west of Montreal.

Simon said an oil spill around the Lake of Two Mountains would be disastrous for drinking water, and the proposed route cuts through traditional hunting and fishing grounds.

TransCanada still hasn't said where the proposed pipeline would pass under the river.

TransCanada Corp.'s proposed pipeline project, which would carry 1.1 million barrels a day from Alberta through Quebec to an export terminal in Saint John, N.B. (Canadian Press)

The federal review board must decide whether to approve TransCanada's bid to build the 4,500-kilometre pipeline that would transport crude oil from Alberta to Eastern Canada.

The hearings are also scheduled for several other cities, including Quebec City, before concluding in Kingston, Ont., in December. 

The NEB must submit its report by March 2018 after which the federal cabinet will have the final say on the project.

With files from Sarah Leavitt