08/07/2013 10:40 EDT | Updated 10/07/2013 05:12 EDT

First Nations want equal partnership in west-east pipeline

First Nations in New Brunswick expect to have their conditions met before TransCanada Corp. is given permission to proceed with its $12-billion west-east pipeline project.

The Energy East pipeline proposal, which still needs regulatory approval, would send 1.1 million barrels of oil per day from Western Canada to refineries and export terminals in Eastern Canada.

TransCanada is expected to file its regulatory application with the National Energy Board by the end of the year. It anticipates it will take 24 months to move through the process, and promises to engage with First Nations and other communities before construction would begin.

The Assembly of First Nation's Chiefs released a statement on Thursday, saying the pipeline must satisfy their concerns before it moves ahead.

The association said the pipeline must ensure:

- Full protection of the environment.

- Full protection of the ability to exercise aboriginal and treaty rights.

- Meaningful participation of First Nations in the management of any pipeline and all benefits arising from it.

Lawyer Kelly Lamrock, who represents the Assembly of First Nations Chiefs in New Brunswick, said governments have a legal duty to consult with First Nations.

"The government has to recognize the First Nations treaty rights that exist here, including the right to be consulted," said Lamrock.

"There need to be absolute guarantees that the environment can be protected in this project."

Assembly will also address marine terminal

Joanna Bernard, chief of the Madawaska Maliseet First Nation, said she is in support of the pipeline if it can be done safely.

"The concern is always the environment and safety and making sure we protect mother earth. And that's the bottom line for a lot of First Nations people," said Bernard.

Members of the assembly said they plan to release another statement later in the week.

It's expected it will concern the proposed $300-million deep water marine terminal, a joint venture by TransCanada and Irving Oil Ltd., and its possible impacts on wildlife in the Bay of Fundy.

Design work on the marine terminal, which would be located adjacent to Irving Oil's existing import terminal, is expected to begin in 2015.

Irving Oil says the terminal's construction will create "hundreds of jobs" and the facility will employ up to 50 people once it is finished.

TransCanada said it would start seeking regulatory approvals on the pipeline in 2014 and the oil could start flowing to Eastern Canada by late 2017.

The company proposes to convert roughly 3,000 kilometres of natural gas pipeline on its existing Canadian Mainline route so it can carry crude oil.

It says it would also construct 1,400 kilometres of new pipeline to carry crude oil into Saint John, where it will end at the Canaport LNG terminal.