Northern Gateway crew turned away from B.C. First Nations territory shows pipeline project faces tough road

Author
Steve Mertl
A recent incident involving an Enbridge Inc. crew working on the Northern Gateway project and a B.C. First Nation provides a hint of what the Calgary-based energy company can expect if the oil sands pipeline is ever approved.

The Canadian Press reports the Gitga’a First Nation turned away an Enbridge spill-response survey crew earlier this month. It won’t be the last time work on the as-yet unapproved mega-project is tripped up.

The re-election of the resource-friendly Liberals in this week’s B.C. election may have let Northern Gateway’s backers breathe a little easier.
“I think British Columbians have spoken quite clearly that economic development and economic prosperity is a priority, but not at the expense of the environment,” Enbridge spokesman Ivan Giesbrecht told the Globe and Mail after Tuesday’s vote.

“You know, that has been our message all along as well, and we are certainly committed to working with the Liberal government to move that forward.”
Premier Christy Clark set five conditions for backing the $6-billion project, including economic benefits for B.C. and environmental safeguards, which to the oilmen in Calgary means it’s just a matter of negotiation.

But one of those conditions involves satisfying legal obligations under aboriginal and treaty rights, and that may be a tough slog.
[ Related: Northern Gateway panel issues draft pipeline conditions ]

Many First Nations along the nearly 1,800-kilometre-long pipeline route from Alberta across northern B.C. to a planned export terminal near Kitimat oppose the project. They’re worried a pipeline rupture would dump chemically diluted heavy crude into pristine waterways. Likewise, an accident involving one of the supertankers coming in and out of the terminal could have Exxon Valdez-like consequences on the coast.

Enbridge CEO Al Monoco says he has support of 68 per cent of the 45 B.C. First Nations affected by Northern Ga …
Enbridge might feel more confident about the project, Art Sterritt of the influential Coastal First Nations coalition told the Globe, but “as far as we’re concerned, it’s still dead.”

Sterritt said he doubts Enbridge will be able to mean the “very onerous” conditions set by Clark.

“For example, oil spill prevention hasn’t changed in 25 years,” he said. “We don’t think Northern Gateway is ever going to pass the test on that.”
The Gitga’at live in the village of Hartley Bay, which is near where the B.C. Ferries ship Queen of the North ran aground and sank in 2006, taking two lives. Hartley Bay residents rushed to their boats in the middle of the night in response to a distress call and helped rescue 100 passengers and crew.

Gitga’at Councillor Marven Robinson told CP the band received a fax from Enbridge with no contact information on it, telling the village its survey crew would be coming.
“A few days later the boat showed up with crews,” Robinson said. “This is bad timing. All of our people are down at our seaweed harvesting camp. This is really a lack of consultation.”

Giesbrecht said members of the survey crew went to the band office to let people know they were in the area and “if anybody had any questions, feel free to come and speak to us.

“At the invitation of the Gitga’at, we met with them for approximately 30 minutes, had a very cordial meeting, and at the end of it, we followed their wishes and we respectfully left the area,” he told CP.

Anyone who’s dealt with First Nations knows it takes time to build relationships and the process is hands-on. An unsigned fax is probably not your best calling card.
Giesbrecht conceded there may have been a miscommunication and said the company hoped for future meetings.

But that probably won’t help. First Nations have felt alienated from the environmental-review process, which wraps up next month. The panel’s report is expected by the end of the year. If it favours the project going ahead, expect more confrontation with aboriginal opponents.

[ More Brew: Rob Ford denies drug allegations as world watches ]

B.C. First Nations in the past have used blockades to express their opposition to resource development on their traditional territories. But the real battles likely will be in the courts.

Aboriginal representatives at Enbridge’s annual shareholders meeting earlier this month warned they’ll tie up the project.
“Are you willing to risk extensive legal battles and opposition until my generation is in their 40s?” Trevor Jang, a 20-year-old youth from the Small Frog Clan of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation near Terrace, asked Enbridge CEO Al Monaco, according to the Financial Post.

Monoco responded that Northern Gateway has support across Canada, including 68 per cent of the 45 B.C. First Nations directly affected.
Aboriginal leaders have brushed off Ottawa’s appointment of Vancouver lawyer Doug Eyford as a special envoy to explore ways of reducing the tensions between First

Nations in Western Canada and energy companies.

“It’s going to be a long, hot summer,” Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation said in March, according to CBC News. “We have a lot of issues at stake.”

treaty signing against tar sands

http://www.livestream.com/w2media
– LIVESTREAM TODAY.Shawn Atleo (AFN), Chief Bill Williams (Squamish), Lummi Nation, Tulalip Tribes, Musqueam Nation all joining Tsleil Waututh Nation for treaty signing against tar sands exports thru their Territories. — with Benjamin West and Rueben George at West Coast Oil Pipelines Summit

http://www.livestream.com/w2media

300+ First Nations members arrive in Ottawa after 1,600-km trek from Hudson Bay

OTTAWA – Wrapped in ceremonial white, hooded jackets, nearly 300 young people arrived Monday on Parliament Hill to cap off a marathon winter trek through the Canadian hinterland inspired by the Idle No More movement.

Hundreds more supporters filled the steps beneath the Peace Tower to greet the walkers as they made their way to the Parliament Buildings from nearby Victoria Island on the Ottawa River.

Amid the relentless pounding of ceremonial First Nations drummers and the chants and songs of marchers, dozens of speakers pleaded with the Harper government to alleviate the harsh living conditions on some reserves.

The group, known as the Nishiyuu Walkers, were celebrated as heroes as they were greeted with cheering and wild applause throughout the afternoon-long demonstration.

Their long walk began when David Kawapit Jr., a 17-year-old from the isolated community of Whapmagoostui in northern Quebec, decided to trudge the staggering 1,600 kilometres from the edge of Hudson Bay to Ottawa in support of better conditions for aboriginal people.

Kawapit repeatedly flashed his broad smile as he was surrounded by supporters in the march from Victoria Island.

Since the coldest days of January, when Kawapit and a half-dozen supporters embarked on their journey with snowshoes on their feet and their supplies in tow, their ranks slowly swelled to several hundred people.

Organizers said about 270 walkers in total completed the journey to Ottawa.

Green party Leader Elizabeth May jumped and cheered as the group ended their “awe-inspiring” trek.

She accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper — who opted instead to be in Toronto for the arrival of two giant pandas on loan from China — of ignoring the plight of Canada’s aboriginal population.

“It says a lot that Stephen Harper isn’t here, that he’s greeting the pandas,” said May. “It says a lot that we need to move heaven and earth to meet First Nations on a nation-to-nation basis with respect.”

A Facebook group, called The Journey of Nishiyuu and boasting more than 33,500 members, also derided Harper for attending a panda photo-op instead of greeting the walkers.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt agreed to speak with some of the young people who completed the trek, vowing to hear their concerns and tell them what the government is doing on behalf of First Nations.

“I’m going to be listening,” Valcourt said. “This is about informing myself about their concerns.”

During question period in the House of Commons, New Democrat Romeo Saganash said First Nations members need something more concrete.

“It’s too late for broken promises and paternalism,” Saganash said.

Valcourt said the government wants to help First Nations develop the skills and expertise they need to make the most of their natural resources.

The trek to Ottawa was arduous for many of those who took part.

When they arrived last week on the First Nation reserve of Kitigan Zibi, about 130 kilometres north of Ottawa, nearly two dozen of the walkers needed treatment for foot injuries.

Three members of the group were later sent to hospital in nearby Maniwaki, Que., treated, and released.

Read more: http://www.theprovince.com/sports/Valcourt+meet+young+First+Nations+members+after+1600km+trek/8148743/story.html#ixzz2OajquZ1P

Canadian and U.S. “natives” vow to block oil pipelines

Author
David Ljunggren
An alliance of Canadian and U.S. aboriginal groups [First Nations] vowed on Wednesday to block three multibillion-dollar oil pipelines that are planned to transport oil from the Alberta tar sands, saying they are prepared to take physical action to stop them.

The Canadian government, faced with falling revenues due to pipeline bottlenecks and a glut that has cut the price for Alberta oil, say the projects are a national priority and will help diversify exports away from the U.S. market.

But the alliance of 10 native bands – all of whose territories are either near the crude-rich tar sands or on the proposed pipeline routes – complain Ottawa and Washington are ignoring their rights.

They also say building the pipelines would boost carbon-intensive oil sands production and therefore speed up the pace of climate change.

“Indigenous people are coming together with many, many allies across the United States and Canada, and we will not allow these pipelines to cross our territories,” said Phil Lane Jr, a hereditary chief from the Ihanktonwan Dakota in the state of South Dakota.

“Along with every single legal thing that can be done, there is direct action going on now to plan how to physically stop the pipelines,” he told a news conference in Ottawa.

The pipeline projects in question are:

* TransCanada Corp’s Keystone XL to Texas, which is awaiting approval from Washington

* Enbridge Inc’s Northern Gateway to the Pacific Coast, which if built will help export oil to China

* Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP’s plans to more than double the capacity of its existing Trans Mountain pipeline to Vancouver

Some Canadian aboriginal bands briefly blockaded roads and rail lines in January as part of a national protest dubbed “Idle No More” against the poor living conditions that many natives endure.

They say the Canadian government is ignoring treaties signed with native bands in the 18th and 19th centuries. These agreements, they say, give aboriginal groups a major say in what happens on their territories.

“They’ve been stealing from us for the last 200 years … now they’re going to destroy our land? We’re not going to let that happen,” said Martin Louie of the Nadleh Whut’en First Nation in British Columbia.

“If we have to go to court, if we have to stand in front of any of their machines that are going to take the oil through, we are going to do that. We’re up against a wall here. We have nowhere else to go.”

U.S. environmentalists are urging President Barack Obama to block the Keystone XL pipeline. Greens and native bands also oppose the Northern Gateway, saying if there were a spill it could cause an environmental disaster and jeopardize traditional ways.

Canada’s Conservative government on Tuesday appointed a lawyer to gather views of native groups across British Columbia on energy development and report back to Ottawa.

Federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, asked abut the bands’ comments on Wednesday, said the government expects citizens to respect the law.

“If we do not go ahead with infrastructure, with pipelines to move our resources to tidewater and on to markets that want the resources, we will see them stranded and our legacy lost,” he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

“The people who will be hurt by this will be Canadians and we don’t want that to happen and we are determined it will not happen,” he said.

The Nadleh Whut’en have teamed with four other British Columbia First Nations against Northern Gateway in a group called Yinka Dene Alliance. They have long said they will not allow the pipeline, which is now the subject of public hearings, to go through their territories.

For its part, Enbridge said it is well aware of the group’s opposition. The company says it has agreements with 60 percent of the aboriginal communities along Northern Gateway’s proposed route that will give those communities equity stakes in the project.

“The Yinka Dene Alliance’s position hasn’t changed for years, even with several attempts to sit down and discuss issues and try to address their concerns,” Enbridge spokesman Todd Nogier said. “We see the federal government’s announcement yesterday (of a representative to meet with natives) as a very positive one. It’s one that works to address bigger issues beyond any single project.”

First Nations demo on Ottawa

First Nations will be holding a ceremony in Ottawa to sign the Save the Fraser Declaration and the International Treaty to Protect the Sacred from Tar Sands Projects. Tsleil-Waututh will be represented at the ceremony by Rueben George.
Please share this event with your networks:

https://www.facebook.com/events/601651629863674/

Thanks!

Brenda Belak, Staff Lawyer

West Coast Environmental Law
200 – 2006 West 10th Avenue

Vancouver, BC, Canada V6J 2B3

Burrard Inlet First Nation calls for renewables

Faced with a six-fold increase in oil tanker traffic in their Burrard Inlet home if Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion project goes ahead, the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation says it’s time for Metro Vancouver and British Columbia to get serious about alternative energy.

And to drive the point home, the Tsleil-Waututh, whose community sits directly across the inlet from Kinder Morgan’s Westridge oil export terminal, are organizing a summit in Vancouver later this spring that they say is a call to action on exploring clean energy alternatives to oil.

The Tsleil-Waututh initiative comes at a time of unprecedented investment in energy in this province. The largest oil and gas companies in the world are lining up with offers of multi-billion dollar investments aimed at developing totally new industries and new markets that proponents say Canada needs if its most valuable export, energy, is to survive, let alone thrive.

But these investments bring their own issues.

“You can only have so many pipeline corridors across British Columbia, there’s only so much water to produce the natural gas,” said Vancouver energy lawyer David Austin, referring to proposals for new or expanded energy export terminals at Vancouver, Kitimat and Prince Rupert.

The Tsleil-Waututh conference, Transitioning From Oil Dependency, is not just about opposition to Kinder Morgan’s $5.4 billion pipeline expansion, said Tsleil-Waututh chief Justin George, but about looking at clean alternatives and creating business partnerships to make those alternatives happen. “I see this issue as multi-faceted,” George said. “It’s not just a First Nations issue. It’s all of us as human beings making it better for the next generation.”

“We don’t disregard that there needs to be an economy but it has to be sustainable.”

The conference is specifically aimed at First Nations, municipalities, environmental groups, federal and provincial government representatives, renewable energy organizations, the legal and risk management communities, unions and the academic community, said conference organizer Geoff Greenwell of 2G Group.”Of course all concerned citizens and community members are welcome as well,” he said.

The 500 members of the Tsleil-Waututh, whose name means People of the Inlet, fear an oil spill is inevitable if Kinder Morgan’s proposal to increase the capacity of the Trans Mountain Pipeline from 300,000 barrel a day to 890,000 barrels a day goes ahead. But the increase in tanker traffic alone, from the current level of five a month to 34 a month passing in and out of Second Narrows, will bring its own pollution which George said will harm the sea life that the Tsleil-Waututh have depended upon for generations.

The Tsleil-Waututh support development; they have a deep history of trade, George said, citing Russian beads that have been found at old village sites as examples of a centuries-old trading economy on the inlet. They are partners in a subdivision development on reserve lands, have profitably invested in a wind turbine company and have their own wind turbine distribution business. They are committed to economic development, George said.

“We understand the importance of economic development,” he said. “But we also understand our deep-rooted connection with this waterway.”

The First Nation’s effort to raise awareness over Vancouver’s developing role as an energy exporting port comes at a time when Canada needs to find export markets outside of North America if the oil and gas industry itself is to transition away from dependency on the U.S. market. New horizontal drilling technologies and hydraulic fracturing of shale oil and gas deposits are turning North America into a global energy giant. The U.S., now Canada’s major market, is expected to be the world’s largest oil producer by 2017, according to the International Energy Agency.

“The U.S. is reducing its reliance on imports quite phenomenally, and if we don’t build pipelines like Northern Gateway, or the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline into Burnaby, I think we are going to stunt the growth of the oil industry in Western Canada. I think this will become self-evident very quickly – in about three years’ time,” said Sco-tiabank commodities analyst Patricia Mohr.

Enbridge’s $5.5 billion Northern Gateway oil pipeline proposal from Alberta to Kitimat has been the focus of most public attention, mainly because it is the most advanced, already at the public review stage. Enbridge’s website describes it as the largest private investment of capital in the history of British Columbia. But that is only the tip of the energy investment iceberg. At $5.4 billion, the Kinder Morgan expansion is a close second.

Further, five of the world’s largest energy companies have announced plans to pipe natural gas across northern B.C. to the West Coast where they intend to build plants to liquefy the gas and send it by ship to lucrative markets in Asia. Just one of the major projects, Shell Canada’s pipeline and LNG terminal proposal, is expected to cost over $12 billion.

Coastal First Nations, an alliance of eight north and central coast tribes, is one of the loudest voices saying this new gold rush should provide more than jobs and investment. The alliance is seeking legacies in terms of renewable energy investments to power the LNG plants for the day when the oil and gas runs out.

“Nobody is thinking the LNG industry is going to last more than 20 or 30 years,” said Coastal First Nations executive director Art Sterritt. “We are going to be left exactly where we are right now with no energy to do anything else.

“What we need is a process where all of the information goes into the middle and the provincial government and industry and First Nations come together and say ‘This is the way it can be done.'” The Tsleil-Waututh summit is aimed at bringing provincewide attention on the role of renew-ables in British Columbia’s new energy gold rush, said George. It is scheduled for April 18 and 19 at the Sheraton Wall Centre in Vancouver.

ghamilton@vancouversun.com
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Burrard+Inlet+First+Nation+calls+renewables/7826116/story.html#ixzz2KNQdpGXv

Tsleil-Waututh Urges to Public to Give Equal Attention to Kinder Morgan Proposal

Tsleil-Waututh Urges to Public to Give Equal Attention to Kinder Morgan Proposal

Canada NewsWire

NORTH VANCOUVER, BC, Jan. 14, 2013

Trans Mountain pipeline proposal now larger than Enbridge’s Northern Gateway

NORTH VANCOUVER, BC, Jan. 14, 2013 /CNW/ – As hearings for Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline move to Vancouver this week, Tsleil-Waututh Nation is reminding citizens and their leaders that Kinder Morgan is planning an even larger pipeline project to export bitumen through British Columbia and the Lower Mainland.

“It’s important to pay attention to the risks posed by Northern Gateway, but we can’t forget that Kinder Morgan has even larger plans for shipping bitumen across B.C. through the Trans Mountain pipeline,” says Chief Justin George, Tsleil-Waututh Nation. “Both of these pipelines present an enormous threat to the way of life of all British Columbians. Pipelines are an issue that everyone in the province should be thinking about during the coming election.”

As of January 11, 2013, Kinder Morgan announced that they plan to transport 890,000 barrels of oil per day through their Trans Mountain pipeline. In comparison, Enbridge says on its website that it is proposing to transport 525,000 barrels per day via Northern Gateway.

“Kinder Morgan continually claims that their project is merely the twinning of an existing route, but this is a misrepresentation,” continues George. “In fact, they are building an entirely new pipeline along a new route, and increasing their capacity by 590,000 barrels per day.”

“Everyone should be concerned by Kinder Morgan’s safety record,” says Carleen Thomas, Councillor, Tsleil-Waututh Nation. “There have been 78 spills since 1951. The largest of these spills have taken place since Kinder Morgan took over the line in 2005. If this is what happens at their current pipeline capacity, imagine what could happen if they get their way?

“We’re calling on all citizens to ask serious questions of their leaders about these pipelines,” continues Thomas. “And we need all community leaders to begin working together to find creative, sustainable solutions for transitioning away from oil dependency.”

Tsleil-Waututh is adamantly opposed to Kinder Morgan’s proposal to build a new pipeline to bring crude oil/bitumen to foreign markets through Burrard Inlet and the Salish Sea. The proposal would see the transport of crude oil expanded from its present level of approximately 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 barrels per day. The Nation has experienced the results of crude oil handling and refining on Burrard Inlet for a number of decades. The Nation is expecting government-to-government consultation on this project.

About Tsleil-Waututh Nation
Tsleil-Waututh Nation is a progressive and vibrant Coast Salish community of approximately 500 members located along the shores of Burrard Inlet in North Vancouver, B.C., Canada. For more information please visit www.twnation.ca.

SOURCE: Tsleil-Waututh Nation

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/pr/1013704#ixzz2I428lKSp

Expect First Nations to press on resource rights

Resource Rulers, a new book by Bill Gallagher, outlines the recent history of First Nations, the resource industry and government relations, and confirms what I suspected.

The First Nations are on a winning streak, and we’re kicking butt in the courts. There are close to 170 positive court cases so far, related to resources and jurisdiction since the inception of the Constitution Act of Canada.

In 1982, when the pa-triation of the Constitution from Britain and the discussions to develop the Charter of Rights and Freedoms were underway, First Nations fought to have aboriginal and treaty rights enshrined in the Constitution and given legal weight. The result was Section 35, which states: “Existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.”

At the time we complained that Sec. 35 was not defined and only gave us the right to go to court. Then prime minister Pierre Trudeau announced that three first ministers’ conferences would be held to define those rights. The three conferences were held, but unfortunately the meetings got nowhere.

The premiers had the chance to define rights or initiate a process at the conferences, but instead left it for the courts to decide. In the intervening years First Nations have gone to the courts repeatedly and we have amassed an impressive winning streak.

Prior to the patriation of the Constitution, aboriginal title was established by the Calder case in British Columbia and the James Bay Cree decision in Quebec.

In 1997, however, the Supreme Court ruled on the Delgamuukw case and shifted the landscape forever. Delgamuukw refers to a case brought forward by the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en traditional territory in British Columbia.

The court defined aboriginal title as the collective right for aboriginal people to hold title to their traditional lands. It then recognized that the right was protected under Sec. 35 of the Constitution and stipulated that the Crown had a duty to consult aboriginal groups prior to acting and said that compensation is required in some cases. The Bernard and Marshall cases on the East Coast bookended the decision, with the court ruling in favour of the Mi’kmaq nation.

The wins have been incremental over the past 30 years, gradually building on the success of previous cases. As a result, First Nations’ successes largely have flown under the radar. Governments are not anxious to react or recognize our successes, and media have failed to get their minds around it. In the journalistic world of 24-hour breaking news, complicated and incremental stories are often ignored. Gallagher’s book refers to this as the largest unreported story of the decade.

All this success has empowered First Nations to the point that today resource development has to have the blessing of First Nations whose traditional territory is affected. The Gateway pipeline, for example, likely will never be built as long as First Nations groups oppose it.

The Supreme Court has ruled that governments in Canada have a constitutional duty to consult and accommodate aboriginal groups when making decisions that could adversely affect lands and resources within a First Nation’s traditional territory.

The Harper government and First Nations are on a collision course. The government wants to make Canada a major exporter of natural resources. First Nations, however, are claiming title and want serious consultation and resource revenue sharing. The courts seem to be moving in that direction.

The federal government must follow up with public policy and legislation that implement the principles embodied in the court decisions. First Nations must be included as serious players in the resource industry.

This includes resource revenue sharing, meaningful consultation, equity in resource companies and seats on boards of directors.

The old days of limited consultation and the vague promise of jobs and training are long gone.

Unfortunately, most members of the public can’t or won’t accept the fact that aboriginal people hold tremendous power and are not afraid to use it. Court decisions have empowered our people, and we can expect more legal challenges and unrest in the future.

The national example exists in Quebec, whose government has initiated a long-term agreement with the James Bay Cree on resources and revenue sharing. This is a model that Saskatchewan’s Wall government would be wise to review.

First Nations leaders have to avoid the trap of focusing on minor amendments to the Indian Act and legislation that requires publishing salaries of chiefs and councillors. I see this as a smoke screen and a distraction to avoid the serious discussions that have to take place on resources.

Resource revenue sharing and our meaningful role in the resource industry represent the next big move for Canada’s First Nations.

If the federal and provincial governments choose not to act, resource projects such as the ring of fire in northern Ontario, future potash mines in Saskatchewan, and hydro projects across Canada will be in jeopardy.

Gallagher’s book should be required reading for all First Nations leaders and their supporters. It represents a road map to our future.

© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix

Read more: http://www.thestarphoenix.com/news/Expect+First+Nations+press+resource+rights/7631408/story.html#ixzz2Dj9hUbJ9

First Nations shut out of Jackpine oil sands hearing

A government review panel has denied dozens of First Nations people who live downstream from Shell Canada Ltd.’s Jackpine oil sands mine in Alberta the right to participate in environmental assessment hearings for the mine’s expansion, apparently due to problems with their applications.

At the same time, the panel overlooked the same problem in the application of the Canadian unit of a large French oil company and granted it standing to appear. Among those who were denied standing was Bill Erasmus, Dene National chief and Assembly of First Nations regional chief.

Related
Alberta launches agency to monitor environmetal impact of oil sands
Oil sands development about to exceed Alberta’s new pollution limits: documents
David Suzuki and Greenpeace ‘changed my thinking’: John Abbott
Oil sands to benefit all of Canada, not just Alberta: Conference Board
In a decision released last week, the federal-provincial panel established to review the Jackpine expansion ruled on who would be considered an “interested party,” which is now a prerequisite in order to participate at federal environmental assessment hearings.

FilesBill Erasmus (left), Dene National chief and Assembly of First Nations regional chief, was among those denied the right to participate in the hearing.
The interested-party test is part of a new law passed by Parliament earlier this year that, many lawyers say, seems intended to limit public participation in environmental assessments of controversial projects. At the time the law was introduced, the government said such focus was necessary in order to limit lengthy hearings and bring greater certainty to the regulatory process.

The hearings, which begin in Fort McMurray Monday, will assess the environmental impacts of expanding the Jackpine mine’s production by 100,000 barrels per day — bringing total production capacity to 300,000 barrels per day.

Mr. Erasmus was surprised not to have made the cut. “We have a right to speak on anything that affects our land,” he said.

Many of the individuals who had applied for interested-party status claimed the project would directly affect the air, water and wildlife in their region. They also felt that their traditional knowledge of the area could help the panel in assessing the project.

But, according to the panel’s decision letter, “a large number of individuals or groups that filed written comments with the registry did not provide all (or any) of the information required in a hearing submission.”

We made the deadline. We went through the process of applying. It seems like they’re looking for a technicality to not hear us
Mr. Erasmus says he was not aware of these additional application requirements, which were not listed in the notice of hearing.

“We made the deadline. We went through the process of applying. It seems like they’re looking for a technicality to not hear us,” he said.

Eriel Deranger, a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, was also one of those denied standing. She said many of those who had signed up did not attach detailed hearing submissions to their emailed applications not only because they did not know it was required, but also because they just wanted to make oral statements and give oral evidence. “A lot of them were elders, so this is very concerning,” she says.

Ms. Deranger says she emailed the panel specifically asking for details on how she and other aboriginal people who were planning on making oral presentations at the hearings should apply, but the panel responded to her after the deadline.

“The process wasn’t clear,” she said. “Instead of dealing with the issues at hand, they just make the process so complicated, that they can axe people from participating based on procedural reasons.”

First Nations people were not the only ones who were apparently unaware of the detailed hearing submission requirements. In the panel’s decision letter, the panel noted that Total E&P Canada Ltd., an oil sands company operating in the region and the wholly owned subsidiary of French oil-giant Total SA, did not comply with the application requirements.

The panel, however, decided to grant Total interested-party status despite this.

A spokesperson for the joint review panel said it had determined a hearing submission was not required in Total’s circumstances.

While Mr. Erasmus plans to follow up with the panel to ensure he will be given an opportunity to participate, Ms. Deranger says she cannot afford to put any more energy into it. “I could counter all of this, but it’s a lot of time, a lot of resources,” she says, “and I have a full-time job. It just seems like butting your head up against a brick wall.”

A spokesperson for the joint review panel said that those affected could ask the panel to reconsider.