(Ienearth.org) -- Allegations by Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver that review panel hearings on the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline are being hijacked by foreign-funded radicals are misinformed, and constitute an attempt at inappropriate influence over the regulatory process says the Dene Nation. Minister Oliver made the allegations in an open letter published on Monday.
“The Minister’s allegations about radicals using foreign money to achieve an ideological agenda were sweeping, and we assume he was referring to the Dene Nation and other First Nations and Aboriginal organizations participating in the review process,” said Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus. “Our mandate is to preserve and protect our communities, our land, and our culture, and it is our democratic right to participate in hearings on a pipeline that will impact us.”
The upcoming hearings are part of an environmental review process conducted by the National Energy Board, an arms-length federal agency. Dene chiefs will present oral evidence at the hearings in Edmonton later this month.
“Cabinet Ministers should not be interfering with the environmental review process,” Erasmus said. “If the federal government has issues with environmental review processes in Canada they can address those issues in the appropriate forum, but the review process for the Northern Gateway pipeline has been set out and the feds need to back off and let the process proceed, complete with democratic participation by First Nations and others.”
Minister Oliver’s remarks last September about northern Alberta being uninhabitable offended the Dene Nation, and prompted the passing of a motion titled “Ignorance of Federal Natural Resources Minister” at the last Dene Nation Leadership Meeting.
“The Minister’s words have betrayed his ignorance of our land and our communities. We need to speak at these hearing because we are the ones being impacted, and the federal government will not protect our interests for us,” Erasmus said.