Pipeline consultation not enough: Dehcho

At least one aboriginal leader has criticized claims by proponents of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline about the amount of consultation they have done.

At least one aboriginal leader has criticized claims by proponents of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline about the amount of consultation they have done on the proposed gas pipeline.

Speaking before the National Energy Board on Friday, Grand Chief Sam Gargan of the Dehcho First Nations criticized claims by Imperial Oil that it has consulted extensively with aboriginal groups.

Representatives with Calgary-based Imperial Oil — which is leading a consortium of companies behind the $16.2-billion proposed natural gas pipeline — insisted last week that they held thousands of consultation meetings with native leaders about the proposed 1,200-kilometre pipeline.

"It deserves an A grade," said Don Davies, a lawyer for Imperial Oil, during the NEB's hearings last week in Yellowknife.

"While the consultation group is not looking for accolades, credit should be given where credit is due."

Gargan said holding many meetings does not mean the company's consultation was effective.

"Imperial Oil deserves no extra credit for having held 10 meetings in which it says no, instead of just having one meeting in which it says no," Gargan told the energy board.

"Many of these meetings become an exercise of observing how many different ways Imperial could evade an issue or a question or refuse a request."

The proposed pipeline would run through the Northwest Territories' Mackenzie Valley from the Beaufort Sea to northern Alberta.

Dehcho claim 40% of proposed route

The Dehcho First Nations, an organization representing Dene communities in the N.W.T.'s Dehcho region, is the only aboriginal group along the Mackenzie pipeline's proposed route that does not have a land-claim settlement signed with the federal government.

The Dehcho claim traditional territory in the southwest corner of the Northwest Territories that would be part of the right of way for the pipeline. The claim covers about 40 per cent of the pipeline's projected route.

The National Energy Board is holding hearings in the N.W.T. — hearing final arguments from pipeline backers and critics alike — as it decides whether to approve the Mackenzie pipeline proposal.

The energy board is expected to release its decision in September.

Consultation reasonable: federal lawyer

Late last week, the board also heard from federal lawyer Jim Shaw, who said aboriginal groups have been consulted well so far.

"In our opinion, the matter remains ongoing," Shaw said.

"The record of evidence indicates consultation to date, however, has been a reasonable, iterative, respectful process, fully consistent with the honour of the Crown and aimed at achieving reconciliation as this process continues."

Shaw added that consultation with aboriginal groups will become a much bigger issue if and when the Mackenzie pipeline is approved.