Art Sterritt, executive director of the Coastal First Nations, has told reporters that the $280,000 CFN has spent on the Northern gateway pipeline hearings cannot compete with the $250 million Enbridge is paying its lawyers. “There is no equal playing field here today, nor has there been since this proceeding began. The evidence is not being tested and will not, as it should be.”
The Coastal First Nations, an alliance of First Nations on British Columbia’s North and Central Coast and Haida Gwaii, issued this news release on Monday, February 4.
Coastal First Nations can’t afford to participate in this week’s Joint Review Panel (JRP) on the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline in Prince Rupert. This is a David and Goliath scenario, said Art Sterritt.
“It seems the only party that can afford this long and extended hearing process is Enbridge and, perhaps, the Federal Government. The average citizen can’t afford to be here and the Coastal First Nations cannot afford to be here.”
Sterritt, the executive director of the Coastal First Nations, said pulling out was a difficult decision because the Emergency Response Panel is dealing with important issues.
“We planned to ask questions that included: does diluted bitumen sink; how quickly can a spill be responded to and how effective can clean-up be; how long will spilled oil remain in the ecosystem and what are the costs of a spill clean-up and who will pay.”
It is clear that more scientific study is needed on emergency preparedness, he said.
“Despite the lack of information it is continuing with the process. Ultimately this means the JRP will not have the information it needs to make an informed recommendation and that in turn means the Federal Government will be making decisions not based on science.”
The funding disparity isn’t the only JRP issue the Coastal First Nations is unhappy with.
“We are dismayed with the nature of the hearing process itself. Enbridge witnesses are not answering questions or their answers are self-serving and non-responsive. We see cross-examination answers by Enbridge witnesses which are crafted with, or provided by, other persons sitting behind these witnesses who cannot be cross-examined. This does not seem fair to us at all.”
We had agreed to participate in this process on the basis that the JRP was going to be a decision-maker on whether or not the project would go ahead. Then the Federal Government unilaterally changed the decision-making process, he said. “This was blatantly unfair and smacks of double dealing – something we as First Nation have become accustomed to with this government.”
Coastal First Nations will continue to monitor these proceedings and we will do what we can to participate given our limited resources, Sterritt said. “We are profoundly disappointed with the nature of this process. Taken together these problems undermine the legitimacy and authenticity of the hearing process, our pursuit of the true facts and, ultimately, a just result.”
It seems to me that the federal government is only interested in one thing and that is sanctioning the pipeline, it is absolutely not interested in a fair hearing.