The Disrespectful Behaviour of Our Government Towards First Nations
As part of its latest budget, the federal government of Canada has made changes to the environmental review process for oil and mining projects. Among the new rules (which I honestly believe have nothing to do with the environment and everything to do with increasing production) are set time lines for the environmental review process. One year for small projects, two years for large ones. The government has made this timeline change retroactive which means that the environmental assessment of the Northern Gateway pipeline, which was expected to take four years, will now be limited to two years.
Discussing the environmental assessment of the Northern Gateway pipeline, Andrew Andy, Chief of the Nuxalk Nation said, “Despite our serious concern about this process, including the lack of any decision-making role for First Nations, we entered the process in good faith.” Andy continued, “The government’s disrespectful behaviour these past months makes clear that our good faith is not being returned.”
Maybe chief Andy was referring to the unfair changes to the timeline of the assessment. Or maybe he was referring to Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver’s comments on March 20th when he referred to First Nations communities as “socially dysfunctional”. (Classy mister Oliver. Very classy.)
Or, maybe chief Andy was referring to the fact that Prime Minister Harper and the above-mentioned Natural Resource Minister have repeatedly made public statements suggesting a predetermined approval of the pipeline and supertanker project.
Most probably, it was all of the above. The Government’s behaviour has caused First Nations groups to lose faith in the environmental assessment process (those who had any faith in the first place). As a result, the Nuxalk are the second First Nation group to withdraw from the environmental assessment. Many First Nations groups have refused to intervene at all.
I believe Charlie Nelson of the Nuxalk Nation best summarized the overall problem with this pipeline in regards to Canadian First Nations: “Where is the honour in the Crown stating that it’s prepared to violate our constitutionally-protected Title and Rights before the work of gathering information on the scope of infringement is even done?” (My emphasis.)