Haisla take aim at federal consultation in letter to feds

Letters between Haisla and federal government representatives show divisions between the two sides.

The Haisla Nation Council and the Government of Canada appear at opposite ends of consultation regarding the Northern Gateway Pipelines proposal.

Namely, the federal government says, through a June 9 letter to the HNC obtained by the Northern Sentinel, they’ve heard the concerns from the Haisla regarding the project and the Joint Review Panel (JRP) process, but the Haisla say the government didn’t take in to account any of their concerns.

“With respect to your key concerns regarding the risk of spills, the federal consultation team explained how the Government of Canada places a high priority on preventative measures to avoid th occurrence of spills in the first place, and on enhancing response and recovery measures in the unlikely event of a spill,” reads part of a letter to HNC Chief Councillor Ellis Ross from Brett Maracle, Crown consultation coordinator for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, and Jim Clark, director of operations for Natural Resources Canada.

The letter continues to highlight federal government commitments to new measures to “further enhance Canada’s world-class pipeline safety and tanker safety systems.”

In the response letter from the Haisla, signed by Deputy Chief Councillor Taylor Cross, the HNC says that examples of improvements to marine safety referred to in the government’s letter point to press releases on tanker safety that doesn’t impact the local area.

“With respect to the enhanced tanker safety, the Kitimat Arm / Douglas Channel area was not even included in areas Canada has identified for enhanced spill response,” read Cross’ letter. (Underlining taken from original letter.)

Cross’ letter also points to the Haisla’s concerns that many of their issues were not considered at all.

“Clearly your ‘consultation’ team was just a tool to allow Canada to pretend that it had consulted and then go ahead and do what it intended to do all along.”

The two letters refer to meetings between government representatives and the Haisla in March and April this year.

The Haisla concerns include addressing aboriginal rights and title, as well as direct project effects on the environment.

“Your letter identifies Haisla Nation concerns regarding risks, consequences, and response in the event of an oil spill in both the terrestrial and marine environments, missing completely concerns about a spill in the freshwater aquatic environment.”

The government’s letter says that enhancements to Aboriginal engagement will be done with the creation of a Major Projects Management Office West, and the establishment of a tripartite forum.

“The Major Projects Management Office West will serve as a single window for the Government of Canada to coordinate activities on energy infrastructure development with British Columbia First Nations and industry in British Columbia and Alberta,” read Maracle’s and Clarke’s letter.

The tripartite forum, the letter says, will “provide an opportunity for the Government of Canada, the Governemnt of British Columbia and British Columbia First Nation leaders to share information, identify common interests and align efforts on issues directly impacting Aboriginal participation in the development of energy infrastructure and natural resources on Canada’s west coast.”

Concluding his letter, Cross also took aim with the “boilerplate” format of the letter.

“Finally, your letter was boilerplate; a similar letter was sent to various First Nations. We see this as another failure in consultation. The Haisla Nation is a distinct aboriginal nation with a unique history and culture with its own rights and title and with its own threatened impacts from the Project (Northern Gateway). This attempt to brush us off with a form letter underlines Canada’s contempt for our People.”