Newspaper article The Canadian Press

2 Ontario First Nations Suing TransCanada over Pipeline Consultation Process

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

2 Ontario First Nations Suing TransCanada over Pipeline Consultation Process

Article excerpt

First Nations suing over pipeline maintenance

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TORONTO - Two indigenous communities in northern Ontario are suing TransCanada in a bid to expand the pipeline consultation process to include maintenance operations.

TransCanada wants to conduct what it calls integrity digs on a nearly 30-kilometre stretch of natural gas pipeline that runs through traditional territories of the Aroland First Nation and Ginoogaming First Nation.

The First Nations allege in their multimillion-dollar suit that TransCanada should hold consultations even when conducting maintenance operations like integrity digs on pre-existing lines.

They say the company violated their Aboriginal Treaty Rights by failing to do so in this case.

They also name the National Energy Board and the federal government in the suit and allege that the NEB Act regime that governs pipeline operations is unconstitutional because it could potentially infringe on treaty rights.

The First Nations are also seeking an injunction on the integrity digs, which are scheduled to start on Jan. 25, the same day the injunction motion is to be heard in a Toronto court.

Lawyer Kate Kempton, who is representing the First Nations communities, said the lawsuit and injunction are matters of principle.

"Neither the NEB nor Canada has required (TransCanada) to carry out their responsibilities, and neither has the NEB nor Canada carried out theirs, in respect of consulting and accommodating Aroland and Ginoogaming about the physical impacts ... of the integrity digs," Kempton said in a telephone interview. "That's part of making sure that aboriginal rights are not unjustly infringed, and that hasn't been done."

A National Energy Board spokesman said Monday that the agency could not comment on matters before the court.

However, Darin Barter said in an email that the NEB "places a very high value on strengthening our relationships with Indigenous Peoples and we will continue to do so."

Barter also noted that integrity digs are a "proactive measure" that allows companies to visually inspect pipelines. "It is an important aspect of pipeline safety oversight."

TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard said the company feels it should have the right to proceed with integrity digs as scheduled. …

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