MLI's recent paper "The Way Out: new thinking about Aboriginal engagement and energy infrastructure to the west coast" is starting have an impact in the important discussion about Canada's natural resource sector and First Nations communities.  The article below was first published in the Vancouver Sun but has also been picked up by the Vancouver Province, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen and Montreal Gazette.  "The Way Out" is a blueprint to rescue Northern Gateway and establish a model for future energy infrastructure projects with joint equity participation by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal groups for the future.

New approach needed with First Nations over Northern Gateway, think-tank urges

Chief criticizes report for addressing only economic concerns, not broader issues


Aboriginal opposition is sufficient to kill West Coast pipeline projects, the Macdonald Laurier Institute warns in a new study.

Aboriginal opposition is sufficient to kill West Coast pipeline projects such as Northern Gateway regardless of what happens with other governments and regulators, a new paper from the Macdonald Laurier Institute warns.

And to get aboriginal support, both Enbridge and the two senior levels of government need to re-think their positions with First Nations and environmentalists, report authors Brian Lee Crowley and Ken Coates say. Their report is titled The Way Out: New thinking about Aboriginal engagement and energy infrastructure to the West Coast.

The pipeline is described as one of the largest and most important infrastructure projects in recent Canadian history. With access to Asian markets, Canada can become an energy superpower. If done properly, it could provide substantial wealth and opportunity for Canada, governments and aboriginal people along the pipeline corridor, Crowley and Coates say.

But First Nations have to see tangible benefits. The Institute, an Ottawa think-tank, makes several recommendations including:
• Having the pipeline corridor designated by Ottawa as reserve lands under the Indian Act, creating a tax revenue stream for First Nations.
• Setting aside equivalent provincial Crown lands for conservation and establishing a provincial pipeline emergency response program.
• Bringing First Nations and environmentalists to the table by having them participate in an expert panel to determine the best practices and technologies to be used in all land and sea-based aspects of the pipeline.
• Signing Impact Benefit Agreements with First Nations that address jobs, business development and education.

However, First Nations say there is really very little that is new in the report and that the approach taken by the authors does not address broader First Nations concerns that go beyond economic benefits.

"I am not sure (the recommendations) would help anything. There are fundamentally some projects that, at least in the communities that I represent, would not get support," said Terry Teegee chief of the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council. About half the pipeline route in B.C. crosses through Carrier Sekani territory.

He said when First Nations have raised the issue of reserve designation for resource projects in the past, they have received little traction from Ottawa.

And even if pipeline builder Enbridge could guarantee no spills or leaks, broader issues would remain unaddressed, including climate change, CO2 emissions and their impacts on First Nations.

"We are right in the middle of the mountain pine beetle epidemic," he said. "We have seen a change in the snowpack up here, and the timing of it now isn't good for salmon."

Both the beetle and the snowpack, he said, are the result of climate change. Burning of fossil fuels is contributing to that and First Nations do not want to be part of a project that hastens damage within their territories, he said.

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