The federal panel coming to Chilliwack to get more feedback from the public and from Aboriginal communities on the Trans Mountain pipeline twinning has already broken protocol with local First Nations, says one local chief.
“It’s a blunder of the highest magnitude,” said Cheam First Nation chief Ernie Crey. “My concern is there hasn’t been ample warning.”
The invitations are on the way, he was told by Ottawa sources, but the panel sessions are next week, making the timeline tight.
“They’ve just announced dates but they didn’t make any contact with local First Nations prior to doing so,” Crey said. “So right out of the gate, they have made a faux pas. We can’t just clear our calendars that easily.”
Chiefs and other aboriginal leaders needed time to prepare.
The federal panel is set to hear Chilliwack based presentations on July 21 at the Coast Hotel (Rosedale Room)l a ‘public town hall’ from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., and the FN Rountable 12:30 to 4:30 p.m., and then the TMX panel is on to Abbotsford for July 26 at the Tradex for a local government roundtable 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 12:30 to 4:30 FN Roundtable.
Crey quipped a while back on social media that it was an interminable wait to find out who the government would pick as “an Indian whisperer,” to facilitate an additional layer of consultation about what the pipeline proposal could mean in their territories.
Finally a month ago, they had names.
The three TMX panelists announced by Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr Tuesday are:
• Kim Baird, former chief of Tsawwassen First Nation, and consultant in areas of Indigenous policy, governance, and development;
• Annette Trimbee, ex deputy minister for Alberta, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Winnipeg;
• Tony Penikett, the former Yukon premier and author of Reconciliation: First Nations Treaty Making in British Columbia.
“If we’re going to attract the investments we need to sustainably develop our energy resources, then we have to better engage Canadians, conduct deeper consultations with Indigenous peoples and base decisions on science, facts and evidence,” Carr said when the panels were announced.
But Crey said he had to admit he was a little steamed there was nothing sent out in a timely fashion about the by-invite-only roundtable talks, or no direct contact with the community leaders of the territories they’re coming to, less than two weeks out.
“Having gone through pains of saying there would be some sort of Aboriginal expertise leading the process, straight away, it was off-putting. It just seems like it was the wrong way to go about it.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed this panel to visit 10 western Canadian communities, to offer an extra layer of federal environmental oversight on the pipeline proposal.
The panels will be seeking feedback with town hall meetings and panel sessions, in Calgary, Edmonton, Jasper, as well as Vancouver, Victoria, Burnaby, Langley, Abbotsford, Kamloops and Chilliwack.
That is in spite of the fact that the National Energy Board approved the multi-billion-dollar Trans Mountain pipeline twinning proposal that would triple its capacity.
The panel’s findings are expected to help PM Trudeau’s government make a final decision on approval or not, expected by December.
The National Energy Board approved the project, saying the benefits outweighed the potential risk and problems back in May but attached more than 150 formal conditions. If approved, the pipeline could be moving product from Edmonton to Burnaby by 2018.
The panel’s findings will be going back to Carr this fall, before cabinet makes the call on whether to approve or not.
* This version has been updated with details about the Chilliwack sessions and times.