Judge Rules Ottawa Wrongly Passed 2012 Omnibus Budget Bills

22 12 2014

By Vincent McDermott


Protesters with the Idle No More movement block traffic on Highway 63 in early January 2013. Vincent McDermott/Today Staff

A federal court has ruled that Ottawa should have consulted First Nations before introducing the two omnibus bills that served as the catalyst for the 2012 Idle No More protests, after a Fort Chipewyan band challenged the bills in court.

The omnibus bills, C-38 and C-45, included alterations of several environmental acts. They also reduced federal protection of hundreds of streams, rivers and tributaries across the country, including ones the Mikisew Cree First Nation argued were culturally significant.

Within Wood Buffalo, only Lake Athabasca, and the Athabasca and Peace rivers, remained protected once the bill was passed.

Chief Steve Courtoreille of the MCFN said Friday’s ruling was a victory for Canadians, not just his band.

“It is not responsible to ram these bills through Parliament without consulting us and thinking that is alright,” he said. “It is pretty sad for all of us that we had to remind a government that we are having trouble trusting of that.”

In a 64-page ruling, Justice Roger Hughes ruled the MCFN should have been consulted prior to the passing of the two bills, but stopped short of granting an injunction.

“No notice was given and no opportunity to make submissions was provided,” Hughes wrote in his ruling. “The Crown ought to have given the Mikisew notice when each of the Bills were introduced into Parliament.”

Courtoreille said he did not expect an injunction, but is hoping Ottawa will amend the acts to their previous wording.

“To me, the omnibus bills are invalid because the court has said so and our treaty says so. The duty to consult is clear,” he said.

Prior to the bill’s passing in the House of Commons, the federal government said it would be transferring responsibility to local governments, arguing the move would remove red tape for industrial development and streamline regulation.

Environmentalists and opposition parties accused the Harper government of absolving itself of their environmental responsibilities.

The omnibus bills were condemned by every First Nation and Metis group in Wood Buffalo.

While the objectives behind the nation-wide Idle No More protests differed for many aboriginal communities, the majority of Alberta’s indigenous community opposed the omnibus bills.

On two occasions, protesters blocked Highway 63 north of Fort McMurray. One roadblock had traffic in both directions backed up for nearly two kilometres. Traffic was allowed to flow in short bursts.

Courtoreille said the ruling should serve as a warning to governments, and that First Nations will defend themselves in court if they feel their treaty rights have been violated. His band has successfully done so in the past.

In 2005, MCFN successfully argued in front of the Supreme Court of Canada that Ottawa had failed to adequately consult with them over plans to add traditional territory to Wood Buffalo National Park.

The band is currently lobbying UNESCO to list the park as an endangered ecosystem due to encroaching industrial development.

The pace of industrial expansion should also slow down, he argued, blaming a rush to hastily extract resources as the reason behind the omnibus bills.

“We don’t want to ignore government or have them be afraid of us. And nobody wants to keep dragging the government to court,” he said. “The First Nations have valuable contributions and knowledge on these important issues.”

Representatives from aboriginal affairs and Environment Canada could not be reached on Friday or Saturday for comment. Ottawa has 30 days to appeal the ruling.


Shale gas moratorium details unveiled by Brian Gallant

18 12 2014

Five conditions will need to be met before government lifts moratorium on all forms of fracking

CBC News Posted: Dec 18, 2014 9:35 AM AT Last Updated: Dec 18, 2014 3:27 PM AT

Premier Brian Gallant and Energy Minister Donald Arseneault announced a moratorium on all forms of hydraulic fracturing in New Brunswick on Thursday.

Premier Brian Gallant and Energy Minister Donald Arseneault announced a moratorium on all forms of hydraulic fracturing in New Brunswick on Thursday. (CBC)

A moratorium on all forms of hydraulic fracturing in New Brunswick is being put in place by Brian Gallant’s government.

The bill to impose the moratorium is to be introduced in the legislature on Thursday afternoon.

“We have been clear from day one that we will impose a moratorium until risks to the environment, health and water are understood,” said Gallant.

Gallant told a news conference the moratorium will be applied to hydraulic fracturing through any means, regardless of whether the process uses water, propane or another substance to extract natural gas from shale rock beneath the earth’s surface.

The moratorium won’t be lifted until five conditions are met, said Gallant.

Those conditions include:

  • A “social licence” be established through consultations to lift the moratorium;
  • Clear and credible information on the impacts on air, health and water so a regulatory regime can be developed;
  • A plan to mitigate impacts on public infrastructure and address issues such as waste water disposal is established;
  • A process is in place to fulfill the province’s obligation to consult with First Nations;
  • A “proper royalty structure” is established to ensure benefits are maximized for New Brunswickers.

Gallant said there will be no `grandfathering’ of projects already underway that allows fracking to take place outside of the moratorium.

Shale gas companies will be permitted to continue with exploration activities such as seismic testing or drilling wells. But they will not be permitted to frack those test wells while the moratorium is in place.

Gallant had stated earlier the moratorium bill would be introduced in the legislature before Christmas. The last sitting day before Christmas for the legislature is expected to be Friday or next Tuesday.

Gallant has long promised a moratorium that would prohibit hydraulic fracturing to produce shale gas until more is known about any potential risks to people’s health, the water supply and the environment.

The moratorium announcement drew praise from the Conservation Council of New Brunswick.

“We’re proud of Premier Brian Gallant and his cabinet for standing firm to protect water and clean air,” said Stephanie Merrill, the environmental organization’s freshwater protection program co-ordinator.

“Placing a moratorium on shale gas development shows that premier Gallant is serious about protecting the environment, particularly our water.”

The moratorium was a key plank in the campaign platform that lifted Gallant’s Liberals to victory in the provincial election in September.

It was held out in contrast to the Progressive Conservative promise to pursue shale gas development and the development of other natural resources to create jobs.

Hydraulic-fracturing is a method of extracting natural gas from shale rock formations beneath the earth’s surface.

It involves injecting a mixture of sand, chemicals, and water or some other stance into the earth under high pressure to fracture the rock and capture natural gas that is otherwise not attainable.

Opponents fear the process could endanger the groundwater supply and potentially have other harmful environmental effects.

APTN Nov. 2013: NB Chiefs Group had Contracts from SWN, Irving

7 12 2014

NB chiefs group, Mi’kmaq district council received contracts from SWN and Irving-owned security firm

NB chiefs group, Mi’kmaq district council received contracts from SWN and Irving-owned security firmBy Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
The main New Brunswick chiefs organization received a contract from a Houston-based energy company facing ferocious opposition from Elsipogtog First Nation residents over its shale gas exploration.

SWN Resources Canada also “did everything right” under the consultation process agreed to between the provincial government and the Assembly of First Nations Chiefs in New Brunswick, according to the lawyer for the chiefs organization.

The AFNCNB has been receiving funding from SWN for the past two years to provide environmental monitoring for the company while it explores for shale gas in the province, said Mike Scully, who is the consultation liaison for the AFNCNB.

Scully said six people have been hired to follow SWN’s workers as they work exploration lines in their search for shale gas deposits.

Scully also said that Industrial Security Ltd (ISL), which is on contract with SWN, issued a subcontract to the North Shore Mi’kmaq District Council for nine people to do “security related work” associated with SWN. Elsipogtog First Nation is not part of the district council which includes seven Mi’kmaq communities in the region.

The council includes the communities of  Bouctouche First Nation, Eel Ground First Nation, Eel River First Nation, Fort Folly First Nation, Indian Island First Nation, Pabineau First Nation and Metepenagiag First Nation.

ISL also subcontracted work to Chief to Chief Consulting. 

The Irving shadow

ISL is owned by JD Irving Ltd. and it is part of a corporate empire headed by the Irving family which dominates New Brunswick.  The Irvings have cast a large shadow over the ongoing Mi’kmaq-led anti-fracking protests.

Along with owning ISL, JD Irving also owns the compound at the centre of the RCMP’s heavily-armed Oct. 17 raid. The raid freed SWN’s trucks which were in the compound that had been blocked by an anti-fracking camp along Route 134 in Rexton, NB.

ISL is also expected to play a key role in the upcoming trial of six members of the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society. Some of the warriors face charges for allegedly confining up to seven employees of “Irving security” in a compound holding SWN’s vehicles on Oct. 16, according to RCMP charge sheets.

Irving Oil , which is operated independently from JD Irving, has an interest in seeing the development of shale gas deposits as a source of cheap energy to expand its refining capacity to handle Alberta mined bitumen which is expected to flow to the province if TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline project gets approved. TransCanada and Irving Oil announced a joint venture in August to build a new $300 million marine terminal in Saint John.

AFNCNB says forced to consult on NB’s terms

Scully couldn’t say how much money the contracts with ISL and SWN are worth.

Scully was asked to speak to APTN National News on behalf of the AFNCNB by Eel Ground First Nation Chief George Ginnish. Ginnish is co-chair of the AFNCNB.

Dozens of Elsipogtog residents and their allies turned back SWN’s exploration trucks Thursday after an hours long standoff involving the RCMP on Hwy 11, about 46 km north of the community. One woman was arrested for allegedly “causing a disturbance,” the RCMP said.

Elsipogtog Coun. Craig Sock said the band had also filed for an injunction Thursday against SWN with the New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench in Fredericton. Sock said the band is seeking to have a judge stop SWN’s work until the company conducts more consultation.

“They never did any consultation with our community,” said Sock.

Scully also said Elsipogtog gave the AFNCNB the mandate to conduct consultation on the community’s behalf about two years ago.

“The assembly has delegated authority from the member bands to conduct the procedural aspects of consultation on their behalf,” said Scully.

Sock said that delegated authority was signed over by a previous band council.

“This is a whole new chief and council and the community wasn’t consulted properly,” said Sock.

But Scully said SWN did everything it had to do under the phased in consultation process agreed to by the AFNCNB and the province which focused exclusively on exploration. Scully said SWN only received licenses from the province to explore which narrowed the scope of the consultation.

“In my view SWN did everything right,” he said.

Scully said the chiefs weren’t happy with that approach and wanted consultation on all aspects of the planned project, from exploration to extraction, but the province wouldn’t budge.

“(The province) asserted the decision was to issue permits for seismic exploration and that is the decision that technically and legally we were limited to consult on,” said Scully. “There is a reciprocal duty to consult…we didn’t like it but we worked within the parameters that were proposed.”

The AFNCNB have belated called on the province to suspend SWN’s licenses following the Oct. 17 raid.

Ginnish said in a statement that the “phased approach to consultation is incompatible with the Aboriginal perspective.”

The statement did not mention the AFNCNB receiving a contract from SWN as part of the consultation process or that SWN paid for AFNCNB staff to visit the company’s operations in Arkansas.

Scully said people from Elsipogtog also went to Arkansas on the company’s dime, but he would not reveal who they were.



Haida Raid 3: Save Our Waters Animation

4 12 2014

A new music video featuring the music of Kinnie Starr has stop-motion wood carved characters confronting Prime Minister Stephen Harper, depicted on a super tanker travelling around Haida Gwaii.

Haida Raid 3: Save Our Waters was released this week, in response to the December 2013 recommended approval of the controversial EnbridgeNorthern Gateway.

The video is a collaboration of activism and culture, produced by the Haidawood collective, who make stop motion animation featuring Haida culture and language.

Eyes on Peru – Calling All Idle No More

3 12 2014

Earth Guardians, Water and Land Defenders!


December 1st to 12th: It’s time to let the global climate policy makers who will be meeting in Lima, Peru, know that we demand a safe future for ourselves and those yet to come.

We invite you and your group (if you have one) to organize an event and share it far and wide. Not in a group? Take a photo of you and your friends with sign(s) of what you want the Climate Negotiators to know and post it here and on other social media outlets. #EyesOnPeru

Read more:  Idle No More Website – Facebook Event Page

TransCanada and Enbridge pipelines rejected by Quebec municipalities

29 11 2014

Southern Quebec municipalities reject pipeline plans after TransCanada and Enbridge fail to provide details

CBC News Posted: Nov 27, 2014 12:23 PM ET Last Updated: Nov 27, 2014 12:23 PM ET

Denis Coderre looks on while Mascouche Mayor Guillaume Tremblay explains his position on TransCanada's Energy East pipeline plans.

Denis Coderre looks on while Mascouche Mayor Guillaume Tremblay explains his position on TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline plans. (CBC)

TransCanada and Enbridge’s pipelines won’t be welcome in southern Quebec municipalities until they respond to all of the region’s mayors’ concerns, said Denis Coderre.

Coderre, speaking as the president of the Montreal Metropolitan Community — an organization representing 82 communities in the greater Montreal region — said both pipeline companies had failed to meet all the conditions the mayors had set out.

“I truly believe in economic development, but not at any cost,” Coderre said late Thursday morning.

He and Mascouche Mayor Guillaume Tremblay held a news conference in collaboration with the Union of Quebec Municipalities (UMQ) late Thursday morning.

“We had some guidelines, some conditions that we put forward, like the respect of the environment, to make sure that we have safety because we heard about leaks,” he continued.

Instead, he and Tremblay said their most recently voiced concerns were met with an attempt to smooth things over.

“Drop the PR,” Coderre said. “We are big boys and big girls. We are able to make decisions.”

Mayors ask NEB to block projects

He and Tremblay asked the National Energy Board to not allow Enbridge to reverse its 9B pipeline between Montreal and Sarnia, as well as block TransCanada from building its Energy East pipeline until the companies can fulfill all the conditions set out by Coderre and other regional mayors.

‘Drop the PR. We are big boys and big girls. We are able to make decisions’– Denis Coderre, president of the MCC

Coderre said that although the Energy East pipeline will cross hundreds of kilometres of Quebec soil and waterways, there will be few economic benefits for the province.

Considering the potential risk to the environment and the safety of people living near the pipeline’s proposed route, Coderre said he was not willing to take a leap of faith on TransCanada or Enbridge.

He said if those companies couldn’t prove they had solid security measures and emergency plans in place, then their projects wouldn’t be rubber-stamped by the municipalities.

“That’s the deal. We have conditions. If the conditions are not fulfilled, tough luck,” Coderre said.

Kinder Morgan pulls equipment from Burnaby Mountain

29 11 2014

Company says it needs time to remove drilling equipment before Monday’s deadline

CBC News Posted: Nov 28, 2014 11:57 AM PT Last Updated: Nov 28, 2014 4:00 PM PT

Protesters rally on Burnaby Mountain as Kinder Morgan begins dismantling its testing site.

Protesters rally on Burnaby Mountain as Kinder Morgan begins dismantling its testing site. (Bal Brach/ Twitter)

Chief Stewart Phillip arrested at Kinder Morgan protest

Kinder Morgan has begun dismantling its drilling site on Burnaby Mountain and will not complete the planned testing on a second bore hole, a company spokesperson told CBC News Friday.

Ali Hounsell said that it had taken several days for the company to helicopter in the heavy equipment, and that removal work needed to begin now in order to be off the site by Monday’s deadline.

“We’re disappointed, but we respect the court’s decision so we made plans to remove the equipment from that site as the injunction expires midnight Sunday,” Hounsell said. “We are starting to remove that equipment today by helicopter.”

Though testing of the second bore hole will not be completed, Hounsell said the company is confident it has the information required for submission to the National Energy Board (NEB).

“Ultimately, it is up to the NEB to determine whether we do meet the conditions, but we believe that with the information we have been able to gather that we have enough information to meet those requirements at this point,” Hounsell said.

“We know there is some opposition to the pipeline. But it’s also important to remember that we are continuing to receive support.”

On Thursday, an application by Kinder Morgan to extend an injunction keeping protesters away from two drilling sites on Burnaby Mountain was rejected by the B.C. Supreme Court, meaning the site was to be cleared of excavation workers by Dec. 1.

Kinder Morgan injunction

A judge ruled that all civil contempt charges against those arrested so far should be thrown out because of errors in the injunction regarding the location of the site. (CBC)

In denying the company’s request to extend the injunction to Dec. 12, the judge also ruled that all civil contempt charges against those arrested so far should be thrown out because of GPS errors in the injunction specifying the exact location of the no-go zone.

Judge Cullen invited a lawyer for Kinder Morgan to file an application to vacate the charges. Company lawyer William Kaplan made such an application, which Cullen granted, effectively throwing out all of the civil contempt charges.

With files from Jason Proctor