First Nations given proper notice over Belledune oil terminal, lawyer argues

The provincial government argued a Calgary-based company took the proper steps in alerting a group of Mi’kmaq First Nations to a proposal for an oil-by-rail project in the northern community of Belledune.

3 Mi'kmaq First Nations hoping to have court quash permits given to oil-by-rail project in Belledune

Chaleur Terminals Inc. plans to build an oil terminal at the Port of Belledune. A group of First Nations is trying to have the permits quashed. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

The provincial government argued a Calgary-based company took the proper steps in alerting a group of Mi'kmaq First Nations to a proposal for an oil-by-rail project in the northern community of Belledune.

Three Quebec Mi'kmaq nations, represented by the non-profit organization Mi'gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat (MMS), are trying to quash permits granted by the provincial government to a Calgary-based company, Chaleur Terminals, for an oil export terminal in Belledune.

Catherine Lahey, the province's lawyer, outlined to Court of Queen's Bench Justice Lucie LaVigne a chronology of communications between Chaleur Terminals Inc, and the First Nations applicants on Wednesday.

Few of the meetings or emails involved the government of New Brunswick which, Lahey argued, is acceptable in this case.

"Who better to discuss the project than CTI," she asked the court.

Lahey also called the issues raised by the Mi'gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat, such as a potential oil spill en route to Belledune or environmental pollution at the site, "speculative concerns."

The project, which has been granted building permits and holds an approved environmental impact assessment from the province, would see 220 rail cars crossing the Matapedia River Valley each day, headed to a new oil terminal for storage in Belledune.

The Alberta oil would then be transferred via underground pipeline to the holds of ships headed for international export from the Bay of Chaleur.

'Bomb train running down a salmon river'

Troy Jerome, the executive director of the Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat, said the First Nation communities' concerns weren't taken seriously throughout the permitting process of the oil terminal. (CBC)

Troy Jerome, the executive director of the Mi'gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat, said outside the Campbellton courtroom that the First Nation communities' concerns weren't taken seriously throughout the permitting process.

"They say that we had ample time to raise our concerns," he said.

"Well, we were raising our concerns about a bomb train running down a salmon river. They say, 'Well, we're only talking about this tank farm.'"

While Lahey chronicled emails and meetings before and after the permitting process, Jerome argues this does not constitute an ongoing discussion or collaborative effort.

Many of the emails, he said, went unread.

"There was an election happening at that time and they were communicating with one chief and then the other," said Jerome.

"They were sending letters to [Listuguj] Chief Vicaire when he wasn't chief anymore and they were going to a dead email address."

Arguments wrapped up on Wednesday afternoon. LaVigne told the court, given the material, she cannot give a date or timeline for her decision.