UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

Poor process

Northern Gateway issue is not a matter of dollars and cents

By Dennis Gruending

No one was surprised when the Harper government approved the 1,200-kilometre Northern Gateway pipeline, which would move diluted bitumen from the Alberta tar sands to Kitimat, B.C., along the west coast. There, the product would be loaded onto supertankers that will ply the pristine Douglas Channel and the coast before making its way to export markets in Asia.

There are many reasons why the pipeline should not be built, and they overlap. One is the danger of a major oil spill from a supertanker. Another is that Enbridge, the major corporate player involved, has a history of pipeline fractures, which spew oil into the lands and waters through which pipelines pass.

Other potent arguments are that the pipeline would run through lands claimed by First Nations and that the oil tankers traveling along the coast would do so adjacent to lands that belong to or are claimed by various First Nations. They have not been consulted in any significant way, even at this late stage when the National Energy Board says — and the government agrees — that the pipeline should go ahead.  

By doing so, industry and the governments are saying that the national economic interest in Northern Gateway is so great that other considerations, including Aboriginal rights, should not be allowed to intrude. But this is an inflated economic argument for a construction project that would provide a meagre number of jobs for Aboriginals and which, once completed, would provide few permanent jobs for anyone in Canada.  

Map of the Northern Gateway route. Image courtesy of the Sierra Club Canada
Map of the Northern Gateway route. Image courtesy of the Sierra Club Canada
Similar arguments have often been used to justify an encroachment on Aboriginal lands and waters. My own grandparents were homesteaders in the prairies where Aboriginal peoples were seen as an obstacle to agricultural settlement. The Crown forced treaties upon them and pushed them to the margins of society. Still, at least those treaties offered some limited protection. In British Columbia, home to almost one-third of Canada’s bands, almost none have treaties.

For a century after the province entered Confederation in 1871, the provincial government insisted that there was no such thing as Aboriginal title. First Nations refused to capitulate, using the courts to win recognition that Aboriginal title did, indeed, exist and had never been extinguished. That set in motion a process of treaty making that has been painstakingly slow and frustrating, and remains largely incomplete decades later.  

The Coastal First Nations, the Union of British Columbia Indian chiefs and individual bands have all condemned the process by which Northern Gateway has been approved. But they also oppose it on environmental grounds. They are joined in this opposition by a large number of British Columbians.

Meanwhile, Ottawa, Enbridge and the business press treat the Northern Gateway issue as a matter of dollars and cents. A Globe and Mail headline reads: “The key to Gateway: Sweeten the pot.” They don’t get it. Opposition is based mainly on a fear of environmental risk, not to mention the ability to consider the fate of future generations. 


Author's photo
Dennis Gruending is an Ottawa-based author, blogger and a former Member of Parliament. His work will appear on the second and fourth Thursday of the month. His Pulpit and Politics blog can be found at www.dennisgruending.ca.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!

Interviews

Courtesy of Pixabay

Why this woman is leaving the Catholic Church in her 60s

by Angela Mombourquette

After a lifetime devoted to Catholicism, a Nova Scotia teacher is settling in with the United Church of Canada. Here, she explains why.

Promotional Image

Editorials

Jocelyn Bell%

Observations: It’s a long road toward full equality for women

by Jocelyn Bell

'It’s a wonder that we continue to see male ministers as normative and attach shame to female ministers’ biology and sexuality.'

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Playing by Heart

by Observer Staff

United Church music director Kara Shaw was born prematurely, became almost totally blind and was later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Today, the 28-year-old showcases her unique musical ability, performing piano on local and national stages.

Promotional Image

Faith

May 2018

Toronto church builds interfaith friendship

by Vivien Fellegi

Faith

May 2018

This parent found no support for her autistic daughter — and decided to change that

by Kieran Delamont

Suzanne Allen talks about raising a daughter on the autism spectrum and bringing all autistic girls together

Faith

May 2018

Church retreat helps first responders with PTSD

by Joe Martelle

Interviews

May 2018

Why this woman is leaving the Catholic Church in her 60s

by Angela Mombourquette

After a lifetime devoted to Catholicism, a Nova Scotia teacher is settling in with the United Church of Canada. Here, she explains why.

Ethics

May 2018

Pregnant in the pulpit

by Trisha Elliott

Ministers who take a maternity leave still face discrimination in their own congregations

Interviews

May 2018

The two words Rev. Cheri DiNovo wants to hear from the United Church

by Alex Mlynek

The Toronto minister talks about her disappointment over the church’s silence when she officiated the country’s first legalized same-sex marriage 17 years ago – and why she wants an apology.

Promotional Image