Pipeline just as important as Peel, chief says

Unless they are properly consulted, the Kaska and White River First Nations will block a proposed pipeline set to cut through the territory, say chiefs.

Unless they are properly consulted, the Kaska and White River First Nations will block a proposed pipeline set to cut through the territory, say chiefs.

“Foothills has had ample opportunity – some 34 years – to work with White River First Nation to address our concerns about the Alaska Highway Pipeline Project,” White River Chief David Johnny wrote in a letter to the Northern Pipeline Agency at the end of October.

“We can’t support the current proposed easement because we’ve never been adequately consulted with respect to it,” said Chief Liard McMillan, of the Liard First Nation.

Foothills Pipe Lines Ltd., a subsidiary of TransCanada, has requested that its right to a 760-kilometre-long and 240-metre-wide right-of-way through the territory be renewed for a third time.

In 1976, Ottawa granted the easement for a proposed natural gas pipeline after more than 200 days of National Energy Board hearings and passage of an international treaty.

Since then, TransCanada hasn’t built anything – it hasn’t even submitted an application to build anything, the National Energy Board confirmed.

The company has paid annual land rent and the arrangement was renewed in 1987 and 1992.

The current extension will expire on September 20, 2012.

TransCanada has asked Natural Resources Canada to extend the easement again, for another 10 years.

But Ottawa can’t do that unless they adequately consult with Yukon First Nations, said McMillan, Johnny and George Miller, chair of the Kaska Dena Council.

The original easement was granted before aboriginal rights and title were given constitutional protection and before the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act was enacted, wrote Johnny in his letter.

Without signed land claim or self-government agreements, the White River and Kaska First Nations are dependant on Ottawa to protect their rights.

But Ottawa is not fulfilling its obligation, they said.

“Canada has taken no steps to protect our rights or title,” wrote Johnny. “And there has been no attempt made by Canada or the Yukon territorial government to clarify the regulatory process for the project or work on the easement, despite concerns raised throughout the fall of 2010 and the winter of 2011.”

There is confusion over the current work being done and the approval permits needed to do that work, the letter said. “And we continue to be concerned with the apparent inability of both the Yukon territorial government and the government of Canada to tell us exactly what regulatory process(es) will be followed.”

The only environmental assessment on the project was done in 1977, wrote Johnny.

There are also several inconsistencies between both Canada’s and TransCanada’s own records and legislation and their current actions with Yukon First Nations, the letter noted.

In the past, company executives and bureaucrats have pledged to work with First Nations. Today, evidence of that is hard to find, wrote Johnny.

“The company is still in discussions with potential shippers on many of the issues that were brought up during the open season that was launched last year,” said TransCanada spokesmen Terry Cunha of the current status of the 35-year-old project. “Things are still ongoing and the company continues to work towards completing all of the necessary work that needs to be done.”

But Cunha did not offer any comments about the company’s relationship with Yukon First Nations.

“All affected First Nations, settled or unsettled, are being consulted on the proposed amendment to the easement agreement,” Natural Resources Canada said in an emailed response on November 2. “In May 2011, the Northern Pipeline Agency initiated formal consultations with First Nations with territory on the pipeline route. The agency has received input from many First Nations and will give their views full consideration.”

But there is still no consultation agreement, said McMillan – something the aboriginal groups have requested for “quite some time,” he said.

The Kaska have reduced their participation in the First Nation-developed Alaska Highway Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition to observer status after it became clear Canada and the company were using the organization as a one-window stop to replace direct, one-on-one negotiations, said McMillan.

But each First Nation that will be affected by this proposed pipeline will be affected differently, he said.

The proposed route cuts through 230 kilometres of White River’s traditional territory and more than 100 kilometres of Liard First Nation land.

“As traditional stewards of the land and animals in our traditional territory, we need to be able to act responsibly and make an informed decision that includes considering all aspects of the project and how they’ll impact the interests of our community, and our citizens and our traditional way of life,” said McMillan, adding this project is just one of many being proposed on their lands, and that they all need to be considered cumulatively.

“We’ve never been against development when it’s done in a responsible fashion. But we need to be able to retain the right to be able to say no to a project every now and then, when it makes sense.”

And while consideration for employment, training, contracts and revenue sharing should not be ignored, it is not the main objective behind the First Nations’ concerns.

“From our peoples’ perspective, the land and the wildlife are more important than the money,” said McMillan, pointing out the easement cuts through the Little Rancheria Caribou herd’s wintering ground.

This issue is not strictly a First Nations’ issue, added McMillan, citing the recent, territory-wide support northern First Nations received in their campaign to protect the Peel River Watershed.

“We can’t take these decisions lightly and it’s important that all Yukoners – including First Nations, whether settled or not settled, that all those voices are heard.

“And from time to time, we need to be able to say no to a project.

“That can only be good for the Yukon, in general.”

The aboriginal leaders prefer to sit down and negotiate with Canada and the company over the proposed pipeline.

“But if it comes to litigation, or other means to get our point across, I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” said McMillan.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Diane McLeod-McKay, Yukon’s Ombudsman and information and privacy commissioner, filed a petition on Dec. 11 after her office was barred from accessing documents related to a child and family services case. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government rejects Ombudsman requests for documentation filed to Supreme Court

Diane McLeod-McKay filed a petition on Dec. 11 after requests for documents were barred

Buffalo Sabres center Dylan Cozens, left, celebrates his first NHL goal with defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen during the second period of a game against the Washington Capitals on Jan. 22 in Washington. (Nick Wass/AP)
Cozens notches first NHL goal in loss to Capitals

The Yukoner potted his first tally at 10:43 of the second period on Jan. 22

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Former CEO of Great Canadian Gaming, actress charged after flying to Beaver Creek for COVID-19 vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Are they coming?

One of COVID-19’s big economic questions is whether it will prompt a… Continue reading

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, along with Yukon health and education delegates, announce a new medical research initiative via a Zoom conference on Jan. 21. (Screen shot)
New medical research unit at Yukon University launched

The SPOR SUPPORT Unit will implement patient-first research practices

The bus stop at the corner of Industrial and Jasper Road in Whitehorse on Jan. 25. The stop will be moved approximately 80 metres closer to Quartz Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Industrial Road bus stop to be relocated

The city has postponed the move indefinitely

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (1213rf.com)
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

Most Read