The silence on Bill 22 is deafening: Aboriginal Consultation Levy Act – Alberta

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Tim Querengesser
The weekly Peace Pipe low-down on what’s making news

Tim Querengesser is senior editor with Alberta Venture. He once snowmobiled to the Arctic Ocean to interview a guy in elf shoes about reindeer. Really. Peace Pipe is his critical look at the intersection between Indigenous peoples and industry.

Kinder Morgan files Trans Mountain plans

After much speculation, Kinder Morgan last week filed a 1,600-page application with the National Energy Board to greatly expand (the verbiage being used by the company is “twin,” but that’s somewhat misleading) its 60-year-old Trans Mountain oil pipeline from Edmonton to terminals in coastal B.C. and Washington.

The current 1,150-kilometre, 24-inch Trans Mountain pipe is the only one in North America that transports both refined oil and crude. It currently flows about 300,000 barrels of oil per day, according to Kinder Morgan. But the ‘twinning’ of the pipe, according to The Globe and Mail, will see that flow increase to 890,000 barrels per day. The route the twin pipe will take won’t be identical to the current pipe and instead will require Kinder Morgan to acquire or gain right-of-ways within 150 kilometres of new “greenfield” spaces – short-hand for pipeline being installed in backyards and other settled areas. Stay tuned for how that plays out with affected residents in Edmonton or Vancouver.

Aboriginal groups have already voiced their opposition to Kinder Morgan’s plans, though. In March, the Coldwater Indian Band, located near Merritt, B.C., requested a judicial review by filing documents in Federal Court, alleging the minister of Aboriginal Affairs, who is now Bernard Valcourt, was planning to approve the Kinder Morgan plan. That plan would allegedly see sections of the new pipe run across the Coldwater reserve. In May, the First Nation filed a second legal action in B.C. Supreme Court regarding right-of-ways for the existing and proposed pipelines.

Kinder Morgan’s director of external relations, Andrew Galarnyk, has been quoted by The Canadian Press as saying that “Trans Mountain has been, and continues to be, open to discussing and resolving outstanding issues with Coldwater or other First Nations as it relates to the indenture or other matters of concern.”

Stay tuned.

Athabasca Chipewyan punk Royal Dutch Shell

Last week, to borrow from the lingua franca of our times, Royal Dutch Shell, the world’s second largest publicly traded oil company, saw its annual shareholder meeting ‘punked’ in The Hague, the Netherlands. As the meeting proceeded several protesters from the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) confronted Shell board members in opposition to the company’s proposed expansion of two open-pit oil-sands mines in northern Alberta.

“We’ve gone to draw attention that the relationship with the company we had has deteriorated,” said ACFN spokesperson Eriel Deranger, who is part of the protest, during a Tuesday phone interview with Fort McMurray Today. “In the past, we’ve had delegates join us from Ontario and Nigeria. We’re not the only ones frustrated with Shell.”

Indeed they weren’t. Aside from the environmental concerns that the aboriginal groups from Alberta and Alaska raised at the meeting, there was also a growing movement of shareholder activism. About eight per cent of shareholders rejected the company’s executive compensation policy (and a further two per cent abstained).

The silence on Bill 22 is deafening

There has been very little public discussion about Bill 22, the Aboriginal Consultation Levy Act, which is the Alberta government’s sweeping new legislation that, after passing as of today, will control the consultations between industry and aboriginal groups. But emerging details of the proposed legislation suggest that this silence isn’t going to remain.

According to a legal blogger, it appears the act could:

– force proponents to reveal financial agreements they have with aboriginal groups, such as impact benefit agreements;
– block any appeal or review of decisions made by the minister of Aboriginal Relations;

For such a sweeping change to the way industry and aboriginal groups interact in Alberta, the silence on Bill 22 is becoming deafening.