08/08/2012 08:02 EDT | Updated 10/08/2012 05:12 EDT

N.W.T. aboriginal groups against Northern Gateway idea

Aboriginal groups are speaking out against N.W.T. Premier Bob McLeod's suggestion that the Northern Gateway pipeline could run through the territory if it can't find its way through British Columbia.

McLeod, who made the comments on CBC Radio’s The House, said he would be prepared to look at a northern route for the Alberta project if the territory’s Mackenzie Valley pipeline project doesn’t go ahead.

But some aboriginal leaders in the territory are opposed to the idea.

“It's going to be a battle. That's ludicrous for him to say that,” said former N.W.T. chief and environmental activist Francois Paulette.

Paulette said the Mackenzie Valley pipeline should be the territory’s priority before the premier puts other projects on the table.

Fred Carmichael, the chair of the Aboriginal Pipeline Group, said the idea to ship oil from Alberta north to the Arctic ocean is distasteful.

“Tarsand oil, which is such a controversy around the world, you might say practically. B.C. doesn't want it, why put it on us?” he said.

The idea would have its own set of technical challenges, and there is no pipeline in place yet.

Energy consultant Doug Mathews said that while a northern pipeline from Alberta might not be the right tool, he said McLeod identified a huge problem within the country.

“That's the seeming inability to move our bitumen product out of Alberta to markets either in the east, the south or the west. And from a territorial perspective, if you can't get your bitumen out of Alberta, how are you going to get your shale oil out of the N.W.T.? So it does really come home to roost, and I think the premier was right to raise the issue,” he said.

The premier said his focus will be on developing a national energy strategy and getting the Mackenzie Valley pipeline up and running. But McLeod did say he is looking at all options, and that the territory can’t have its resources tied up for another 40 years.