By NC Raine

On Tuesday, the federal government approved a large pipeline project, including Enbridge’s $7.5 billion replacement pipeline for Line 3, a decision that was met with immediate and significant opposition.

The Line 3 pipeline, which runs from Hadisty, Alberta, through Saskatchewan, to Superior, Wisconsin, will funnel 760,000 barrels of oil a day, nearly double that of the existing volume. The pipeline replacement will impact the land of communities of several Saskatchewan First Nations.

Sakimay First Nation is one of those very communities, as Line 3 cuts through some of their land. Ken Acoose, Governance Coordinator at Sakimay said that they consulted the Canadian Environment Assessment Agency in advance of the approval, but the consultation occurred far too late.

“No [I don’t feel the consultation was considered]. It was too short of a period; about three months after the consultation the project was approved,” said Ken Acoose, Governance Coordinator at Sakimay First Nation. “I suspect it was already a done deal.”

Line 3’s proximity to the Sakimay First Nation raises issues with both safety and community involvement.

“We have concerns with long term safety,” said Acoose in an interview. “There needs to be a more thorough study of Indigenous interests in treaty territory…I think there has to be more effective involvement, but we have to determine how we ought to be involved ourselves, and what we can contribute to these projects.”

Chief Jeremy Fourhorns of Piapot First Nation, also in close proximity to the pipeline, said he wasn’t surprised by the Tuesdays announcement, and also has concerns for safety.

“There’s always going to be concerns, especially around pipeline safety, and what kind of environment impacts and risks there may be,” Chief Fourhorns told Treaty 4 News.

The pipeline replacement, he says, carries possibilities about positive and negative.

“On one hand, I do like that there could be an opportunity for the community to get work to put food on the table. But should something go wrong down the line – 10, 25, 50 years from now – that could negatively impact the community. There are conscious risks we need to be aware of,” said Chief Fourhorns.

As such, Piapot First Nation has been working with other First Nations in the Fort Qu’appelle area to put in place a response plan, if and when an incident should occur.

“The only thing we can be sure of is, not if a rupture is going to happen, but that at some point it’s going to happen,” he says.

“If and when something happens down the line, we need to be part of the response. Our traditional knowledge needs to be incorporated into the response, and we need to be a part of the whole monitoring process,” said Chief Fourhorns.

Opposition to the pipeline has not been limited to First Nations in Saskatchewan. Several environmental leaders, including the Green Party’s Elizabeth May, made strong statements in response to the Prime Minister Trudeau’s pipeline project announcement.

“As long as there’s breath in my body, I’ll fight this damn thing,” said May.

“Of course I’ll go to jail. I’ll block pipelines. I’ll stand shoulder to shoulder with First Nations. This is not an issue you compromise on,” May continued.

Mike Huddema at Greenpeace said in a statement, “Pipeline approvals spell disaster for Canada’s climate and Indigenous reconciliation promises.”

A senior communications specialist at the David Suzuki Foundation said, “Expanding pipelines now doesn’t make environmental or economic sense.”

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said in a statement that respecting First Nations rights is essential in any type of resource development. “Governments and industry must respect that. Our approach will always be about balancing the economy and the need to protect the environment to ensure development is sustainable and responsible.”

“We are not stakeholders. First Nations are rights and title holders,” he stated.

FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron also voiced environmental and treaty rights concerns.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall told reporters on Wednesday that there is a special duty to consult and work with all First Nations who are involved. But he cautioned those who are planning to protest.

“I would just say to all those involved who are thinking about demonstrating, first of all, yes let’s hold companies accountable for the duty to consult, but then let’s hold each other accountable to the truth. I’ve seen debates where facts are not always at the forefront,” said Wall.

“Let’s be mindful of the environment and the duty to consult, but let’s also make sure we’re not unnecessarily obstructionist with respect to a very important project,” he said.

Enbridge has a responsibility to consult First Nations in regards to the plan and monitoring of the pipeline. In April, the National Energy Board recommended approval of the Line 3 project, contingent on 89 conditions, one of which being Enbridge develop a plan for First Nations to participate.

Enbridge released a statement Tuesday, reading:  “We have strong support for the project from our communities along the route, including Indigenous communities.”

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