NEWS

Feds told to work harder with aboriginal groups on energy projects

12/05/2013 11:00 EST | Updated 02/04/2014 05:59 EST
A report set for release today will urge the federal government to do more to build trust with aboriginal communities and ensure their participation in proposed energy projects on Canada’s West Coast.

The report by the prime minister’s special envoy, Doug Eyford, is based on months of consultations with aboriginal groups in British Columbia and Alberta. It’s a key part of the federal effort to win support for proposed pipelines to take oilsands bitumen and natural gas to B.C. ports for export to Asian markets.

The report will be released at 12 p.m. ET. CBC News will carry it live.

CBC News reported in September that Eyford’s interim report was highly critical of the approach taken with aboriginal communities. He said then that negotiations with First Nations groups were at a crossroads. In response, senior cabinet ministers and bureaucrats were dispatched to B.C. to consult and try to win support.

Eyford’s final report is expected to repeat that Canada needs to do more to build relations with aboriginal communities, including a commitment to hold regular meetings and discussions.

Regular engagement is critical because people in those communities see the development of resource projects as part of a broader agenda of reconciliation.

Eyford is also expected to underscore that relations between Ottawa and aboriginal Canadians remain at a critical juncture, and support for resource development will only happen if people are convinced the projects will not harm their land or the environment.

Pipeline plans encountering resistance

To that end, the report is expected to recommend the federal government work with First Nations, Métis and Inuit groups, the provincial government and industry to ensure the highest standards of pipeline and marine safety.

Ottawa should take the lead in holding community workshops and meetings to share information about Canada’s energy sector and major projects such as the Northern Gateway pipeline.

Some of that work is already under way. Earlier this week Transport Minister Lisa Raitt released the first major review of tanker safety in two decades.

That report recommended removing the current $161-million liability limit for each spill in favour of an unlimited liability for polluters and increased funding for the coast guard and other agencies to improve their response to oil spills.

Eyford’s report is the second step in helping advance Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s stated goal of turning Canada into an ‘’energy superpower.’’

Those plans depend on building more pipelines, including the Northern Gateway proposed by Enbridge, and the expansion of Kinder Morgan’s existing Trans-Mountain Pipeline.

Both are encountering considerable resistance, particularly among First Nations who say they haven’t been properly consulted.

MORE:cbcNews