Proposed Goldboro LNG plant could be in jeopardy over Mi'kmaq consultations
Sipekne'katik First Nation says it was not consulted as required under federal law
A proposed liquefied natural gas plant in Guysborough County, N.S., has hit a snag and may be in jeopardy.
Earlier this year, Pieridae Energy Ltd. said it was nearly ready to make a final investment decision on the multibillion-dollar facility.
But the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, which is considering the company's application, recently called a hearing for Oct. 15 to consider whether the Crown fulfilled its duty to consult with the Mi'kmaq.
The company said in a filing that any delay beyond Sept. 28 could irreparably harm the project.
Earlier this year, the Sipekne'katik First Nation told the UARB it had not been consulted as required under federal law.
Chief Michael Sack said the Crown and company may have talked to the Kwilmu'kw Maw-klusuaqn negotiating office, also known as the Mi'kmaq Rights Initiative.
However, he said, that organization doesn't represent Sipekne'katik.
The UARB tried to resolve the issue through correspondence but finally called a hearing.
No one from Pieridae returned CBC calls for comment.
But in its filing, the company said it has tried twice to engage the Sipekne'katik First Nation, but has been rebuffed or ignored.
Pieridae also said it recently acquired shares in Ikkuma Resources Corp., which it needed to finance the project.
"Thus, the continued delay by the board in rendering its decision on whether to grant a permit to construct the Goldboro LNG facility may cause irreparable harm to the proponent," the company said.
In addition, it said, it is "inconceivable" that the treaty rights of a First Nation 250 kilometres away could be impacted by the development.
Sipekne'katik's band office is located north of Halifax. Goldboro is east of there.
Sack, who was also unavailable for comment, said in a filing that the entire province is traditional Mi'kmaq territory.
The Sipekne'katik First Nation quit working with the Mi'kmaq negotiating office in 2013, and Millbrook First Nation left three years later.
The negotiating office now represents just 11 of the 13 First Nations in the province.
That means the provincial and federal governments have to negotiate with three bodies rather than one.
Province says it is consulting
The Nova Scotia Office of Aboriginal Affairs said it will address the upcoming UARB hearing, but no one from the department would speak ahead of time to CBC about the Crown's duty to consult.
However, "we can confirm that the province is carrying on a process of ongoing consultation with Sipekne'katik about the project in relation to various Crown approvals," a spokesperson said in an email.
This isn't the first time the province's duty to consult has run afoul of Mi'kmaq First Nations.
In August, the UARB suspended a Nova Scotia Power application to refurbish the Tusket Falls dam in Yarmouth County over Mi'kmaq objections that the Crown had not properly consulted them.