Aboriginals Against Pipelines Are Misinformed: Alberta Chief

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CALGARY — A treaty signed by more than 50 aboriginal groups who oppose oilsands project and pipeline developments is based on misinformation, says a northern Alberta chief whose First Nation does extensive business with oilsands companies.

"I was disappointed by the announcement. I felt it was not informed with respect to the people that are affected," said Chief Jim Boucher of the Fort McKay First Nation.

"Our community up there in the Athabasca tarsands is immersed in the economy quite substantially and our people would have the most to lose if they turn off the taps with regard to oilsands development."

Canadian First Nations and U.S. tribal communities signed the treaty two weeks ago in Montreal and Vancouver, vowing to prohibit and challenge the use of their lands for the expanded production of Alberta's oilsands, including distribution of crude via pipelines, trains or tankers.

lng announcement
Liberal ministers speak about the federal government's approval of the Pacific NorthWest LNG project, in Richmond, B.C. on Sept. 27. (Photo: Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

The groups said they are targeting proposed pipeline projects including TransCanada's Energy East, Enbridge's Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain expansion.

Boucher told reporters it's "naive" to think Canada can prosper without a healthy oil and gas industry. He gave a speech Monday at the Pipeline Gridlock Conference in Calgary hosted by the Indian Resource Council, a group that advocates on behalf of First Nations with energy holdings.

The Fort McKay First Nation owns a group of companies that offer services including earthworks, fuel delivery, environmental services and land leasing operations to the oilsands industry. Boucher said the group earned revenue of $2.3 billion over the past five years.

Last month, the nation agreed to invest $350 million in a $1-billion tank farm being built by Suncor Energy for its Fort Hills oilsands mine.

"It's not about shutting off a pipeline or shutting down the oil and gas industry because we all travel by vehicles, we all travel by planes."

National Chief Perry Bellegarde of the Assembly of First Nations also spoke at the event Monday.

He said he supports the Indian Resource Council's effort to present the view of those who depend on the oil and gas business.

"It's not about shutting off a pipeline or shutting down the oil and gas industry because we all travel by vehicles, we all travel by planes," he said. "But there has to be a sustained approach."

He said he believes it's possible for indigenous people to arrive at consensus through ongoing respectful dialogue.

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