North

N.W.T. marks 35 years since Berger report

In 1977, Justice Thomas Berger recommended a 10-year moratorium on the development of the Mackenzie Gas Pipeline.

Judge recommended 10-year moratorium on Mackenzie Valley pipeline

Justice Thomas Berger, chairman of the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Commission, is photographed in May 1977. Today marks 35 years since Berger released a report that recommended delaying the construction of the Mackenzie Gas Pipeline. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press Picture Archive)

Today marks 35 years since Justice Thomas Berger released a report that recommended delaying the construction of the Mackenzie Gas Pipeline.

In the 1970s the Mackenzie Gas Pipeline, which would transport natural gas from the Beaufort Sea to markets in Southern Canada and the U.S., was touted as one of the biggest projects of its day.

Berger travelled to every community in the N.W.T.'s Mackenzie Valley to understand the project's potential impact. His inquiry was an empowering turning point for aboriginal groups who had rarely been consulted.

In the end, his report to the federal government recommended a 10-year moratorium on pipeline development and encouraged the settlement of land claims before moving forward again.

High school students in Yellowknife got the chance this week to walk in Berger’s shoes.

"They are pretty much putting us through a process of what Justice Berger was doing and come up with different recommendations just like he did," said student Pascal Erasmus.

Sebastian Remillard's group debated the environmental impacts.

"Personally me and my partner are against it as there have already been major oil spills in recent years," said Remillard.

In the end the students agreed the advice Berger gave all those years ago was sound. Then they met Berger himself via Skype.

"I didn't suppose that the discussion would be going on 35 years later," said Berger. "These young people that spoke today — they are going to be a force to be reckoned with."

A new exhibit on the inquiry opens at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife Wednesday night.

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