Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Alberta Band Sues Province over Consultation Policy on Pipeline Proposal

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Alberta Band Sues Province over Consultation Policy on Pipeline Proposal

Article excerpt

Alberta band sues province over consultation

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EDMONTON - An Alberta aboriginal band has asked a judge to overturn the approval of a $3-billion pipeline project because the provincial government ruled the First Nation didn't have the right to be consulted about it.

In court documents filed Thursday, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation says Alberta's aboriginal consultation office violated the band's constitutional rights when it said the band wasn't directly affected by TransCanada's Grand Rapids proposal, even though it crosses land claimed as traditional territory.

"We were shocked to learn that Alberta had decided that we had no right at all to be consulted about this project and that they had advised TransCanada of their decision without even informing us," Chief Allan Adam said in a statement.

"This shows just how profoundly disrespectful Alberta's process has become."

The aboriginal consultation office, intended to make talks between First Nations and industry smoother and more predictable, has instead become a major friction point.

It is vehemently opposed by nearly every band in Alberta. One of Premier Jim Prentice's first promises on assuming office was to reform it.

Prentice said Thursday that he will review the band's concerns, but noted that the case must now make its way through the courts.

"It is a legal challenge that has been brought into court and will have to be resolved in the courts relative to the decisions that have been made before I became premier," Prentice said from Houston.

He said many aboriginal leaders in the province share Adam's concerns about the consultation process in general.

Prentice met with Adam in November. He said he looks forward to speaking with the chief again on how consultations can be improved.

"That is something the chief and I can continue to discuss," said Prentice, who serves as Alberta's aboriginal affairs minister in addition to his duties as premier.

"Some of the concerns he has are reflected in concerns I have heard from other chiefs as well about how the process works."

The Grand Rapids pipeline is designed to ship up to 900,000 barrels of diluted bitumen per day from near Fort McMurray, Alta. …

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