Haisla say JRP report too focused on mitigation over remediation

Preventing oil spills took attention away from the fact oil spills are almost impossible to effectively clean, says Haisla Chief Councillor.

As news of the Joint Review Panel’s recommendation to the government of the Northern Gateway Pipelines approval sinks in, reaction continued to come out following the announcement.

Ahead of speaking to us directly, the Haisla Nation issued their official response, saying that they were disappointed with the JRP, but like many lacked surprise at the decision.

“The Haisla Nation did not have faith that this Panel or the process would take our rights and title interests seriously in the face of big oil money,” they wrote. “We will be reviewing the report in detail in the coming days to try to understand how the Panel could reach its conclusions, and to determine what our next course of action will be.”

Speaking to the Sentinel, Haisla Chief Councillor Ellis Ross said that the JRP’s recommendations seemed to be more preoccupied with mitigation for potential spills rather than remediation, which was the focus of the Haisla’s presentations.

He said the Haisla have spent months preparing for what could be in the JRP report.

“We were hoping for something more positive in terms of the evidence we put forward, in terms of the possible spill response,” he said. “But this is exactly what we expected unfortunately.”

He said the interest in remediation was crucial for them because he has never been aware of any technology that could properly remediate an oil spill.

“We’ve been through mitigation clauses more than once in more than one project and we understand the objective in terms of mitigation attempt, but that doesn’t mean anything when you’re talking about an oil spill,” he said. “You can mitigate all you want. Once an oil spill hits all that mitigation doesn’t mean anything.”

He said the Haisla have always been careful to approach the project scientifically to avoid tying up their position in politics.

“We took the scientific approach. We spent approximately $2.5 million… to actually ensure that technical, professional reports were submitted on our behalf, and I don’t know that it actually made any impact at all,” he said. “We didn’t go with rhetoric, we didn’t go with political statements. We said lets bring in the professionals to look at what happens when a spill actually happens with this product.”

He added there’s an understanding that comes through the recommendations that he doesn’t like.

“To me it sounds like ‘yeah, it might be in the interest of Canada to actually sacrifice our territory in the event of a spill,’ and that’s just not acceptable to me or to the Haisla people.”

Ross also took issue with a lack of attention to rights and title. He said the JRP report may have referenced and mentioned rights and title but it was never effectively addressed.

And as for the 180 day limit for the federal cabinet to respond to the JRP report, Ross suggested that too is a violation.

“We’re going to see an interesting six months in relation to this arbitrary time limit imposed on our rights and title which is basically an arbitrary timeline on consulting and accommodating rights and title. That goes against case law and in fact I question whether or not that has to be abided,” he said.