Slow but sure

It might sound like a cliché to say that last Tuesday, as the Joint Review Panel started its community hearings...

It might sound like a cliché to say that last Tuesday, as the Joint Review Panel started its community hearings into the Northern Gateway project, the eyes of the world were upon Kitamaat/Kitimat.

Perhaps not the world, but certainly Canada. One look at the phalanx of TV cameras in the Haisla Recreation Centre told you that.

And it was confirmed via an e-mail from Marcel Vander Wier, who covered for a part of my medical leave last year. He reported that a photo of the event appeared on the front page of the Charlottetown (PEI) Guardian.

Fortunately, all that attention did not translate into a circus.

No placard-waving demonstrators and no tub-thumping speeches outside the centre, no disruptions inside.

In other words no distractions from the serious business of intervenors presenting their evidence.

And evidence was the crucial word, not personal opinion.

No matter what the intervenors opinion might be, this proceeding was intended to elicit “traditional knowledge”, which panel chairman Sheila Leggatt clarified as including personal experience that was relevant to the project at hand.

For example, Dave Shannon of the Douglas Channel Watch group tackled the issue of double-hulled tankers and whether they were indeed significantly safer than single-hulled.

Now if he had just recounted other people’s views on the subject, he would have been cut off.

However, he explained he was a metallurgist with experience on vessels from his time with the Canadian Coast Guard.

So a presentation which even he admitted was pretty technical was allowed to proceed.

On the other hand, Leggatt several times had to reel in presenters who drifted away from the guidelines – though it must be said she gave people a fair bit of rope.

Now to some it may appear that the rules of the proceeding were overly restrictive.

But it should be remembered that this is just the beginning and that there will be ample opportunity for people to express their view when the process moves on to the oral statement phase.

The Joint Review Panel process may be lengthy, but it can fairly be said that everyone who wants to have their say will get their chance.

 

Malcolm Baxter