New Brunswick

Maliseet First Nations voice concerns on Energy East pipeline

New Brunswick's six Maliseet First Nations voiced concerns about the Energy East pipeline during the last day of National Energy Board board hearings on the project in the province, but they came short of taking a united stance on the project.

Maliseet First Nations say they have concerns about the project, but won't take a united stance

Russ Letica, consultation co-ordinator with Madawaska First Nation, said he was disappointed with TransCanada's response to his question on what consent means to the company.

New Brunswick's six Maliseet First Nations voiced concerns about the Energy East pipeline during the last day of National Energy Board board hearings on the project in the province on Tuesday, but they fell short of taking a stance on the project.

"We are in no position to at this time to comment on whether the proposed pipeline is in the interest to the public or our communities," said Russ Letica, consultation co-ordinator with Madawaska First Nation.

Letica told the review panel his community has many concerns about the proposed pipeline, including potential environmental impacts, increased marine shipping and TransCanada's emergency planning in the case of a spill.

Kingsclear First Nation Chief Gabriel Atwin went a step further, saying the project would be detrimental to the First Nation's land.

"​The project would destroy the areas we traditionally use for ceremonies to keep my people alive," Atwin said.

But the Maliseet communities told the NEB review panel they are waiting for a traditional land use study and technical review of the project, which is being carried out by the First Nations and expected to be completed in the fall , before they give a final opinion on the project.

First Nations in the Maritimes signed peace and friendship treaties with European settlers, but never ceded their lands to the Crown, as happened in other parts of Canada.

During the first three days of hearings last week in Saint John, several Mi`kmaq First Nations and groups, including Esgenoô​petitj First Nation Chief Alvery Paul appeared as interveners. Like the Maliseet First Nations, they also reserved final judgment on the project.

TransCanada responds

Letica posed one question to TransCanada during his presentation – what does consent mean to the company?

John Van der Put, TransCanada's vice president of eastern oil pipeline projects, told reporters "TransCanada is striving to achieve consent. We seek to understand what [First Nations'] issues are, what their concerns are."

TransCanada said the issue of consent legally pertains to the Crown, but told Letica during the hearings that it aims for consent to be respectful, conclusive, frequent, transparent and responsible.

Letica said he was disappointed by the response.

"I don't believe my question was answered ... Consent is either to comply or yield," Letica said.

Panel moves on

The proposed 4,600-kilometre pipeline would bring one million barrels a day of Alberta crude to Saint John for refining at the Irving Oil Ltd. refinery or for export on ships through a terminal in the Bay of Fundy.

The three-person panel heard presentations from interveners in Saint John for three days last week and in Fredericton on Monday.

Tuesday  was the final day of hearings in New Brunswick. The panelnow moves on to Montreal for hearings that are scheduled to begin Aug. 29.

The NEB panel is scheduled to hear from 337 interveners during its visits to nine cities, concluding in Kingston, Ont., in December.

The federal government is to receive the NEB report on the proposed pipeline by March 16, 2018.