The northern Ontario First Nations, Aroland (located in Aroland) and Ginoogaming (in Longlac), will be pursuing a motion in the Ontario Superior Court relating to work by TransCanada Pipelines earlier approved by the National Energy Board (NEB). The First Nations oppose the work approved by the NEB allowing TransCanada to do “integrity digs” on its “Mainline” pipeline that traverses the Nations’ territories.
The Nations will be asking the Court to determine whether the Duty to Consult and Accommodate, as required by constitutional and treaty rights, is owed in these circumstances. This existing pipeline was itself approved before the Duty to Consult and Accommodate was recognized by Canadian law.
This is the same pipeline for which the company is applying to the NEB to convert from carrying natural gas to carry tar sands oil from Alberta as part of the larger Energy East pipeline proposal. While the Energy East application process is on hold while the NEB panel is re-constituted and decides its next steps, the “integrity dig” (if ever there was a misnomer) is ready to proceed.
The work would take place without consultation with the Aroland and Ginoogaming Nations. The dig would mean bringing in heavy equipment to expose the pipeline across 30 kilometres through the territories. The company argues that the work is needed to check and possibly repair the pipeline. But the Nations know that such intrusion will likely have a negative impact on both harvesting (hunting, fishing, gathering medicinal and other plants, trapping) and needed protection of burial grounds and other cultural heritage sites.
As the Nations’ lawyer Kate Kempton states, “This will cause impacts to the First Nations’ culture, sacred relationship to the land that is at the core of their identity as indigenous communities, and on their ability to continue to survive with the land.”
The injunction motion also gets at whether the company is doing the dig to prepare the pipeline for conversion for the Energy East project vs. ongoing maintenance. It is not known whether any gas is currently moving through the pipeline, despite repeated requests from the Nations for verification of this. As noted in the Nations’ press release from Aroland Chief Dorothy Towedo and Ginoogaming Chief Celia Echum, “The fact that no one has made it clear to us if this work is for Energy East is not a burden that we should bear, and is not an excuse to allow this work in defiance of our rights now. If the line is not carrying any gas, then why would TransCanada need to do any physical work to repair something that is now empty?”
We will follow this story and provide updates about any court hearing. A hearing earlier proposed for January 25 has been called off while the Nations deliberate further on the injunction.