For the second time this fall, Canada’s National Energy Boardserved notice it will not halt gas pipeline projects to awaitresolutions of age-old Indian grievances but it did issue a pleafor both sides in a dispute to make peace for the good of allconcerned. The signal arrived in an approval of a second Maritimesspur, called the Saint John Lateral, off the new Maritimes &Northeast pipeline. The $62 million lateral is designed to servedomestic customers in New Brunswick along its route to New Englandfrom the Sable Offshore Energy Project.

While certain issues remain unresolved, the Union of NewBrunswick Indians and Maritimes earlier reached a writtenmemorandum of understanding on native angles to the Saint JohnLateral. M&NE plans to craft a route around three areas claimedas especially important to the natives.

In approving the C$93 million St. John’s lateral, the board saidit “strongly supports M&NE’s commitment to dialogue andbelieves the building of trust and respect between M&NE and theUNBI is more likely to occur if the parties arrive at their ownsolutions.”

The board said the memorandum “provides a means for addressingthe UNBI’s concerns,” at least so far as they directly involve thegas pipeline. Rather than act on protests calling for Canadianfederal and provincial government authorities to halt industrialexpansion until native rights and compensation for wider claims canbe settled, the NEB repeated a message it delivered in amid-October approval of the first M&NE spur, the HalifaxLateral in Nova Scotia. The NEB suggested the industry is on theright track by working out accommodations to particular projectswithout being drawn into wider, highly political issues in AtlanticCanada.

The NEB last week also allowed Maritimes to begin operationsdespite not having received a settlement in the dispute with theMi’kmaq Indians (see related story this issue). However, theparties are expected to file a settlement this week.

The Mi’kmaq natives, other Indian groups and environmentalistsmaintain a vital issue of principle is at stake — plus C$147million (US$98 million), chiefly in compensation for disturbance ofterritory even though there has been no settlement or courtdecision saying the land involved is aboriginal. On the other side,a long lineup of business, labor and provincial governmentinterests backs M&NE’s case that the native issue is narrow andshould not affect the project.

The case has taken on national dimensions in Canada, wherefriction is worsening between native communities and governmentswith industries caught in the middle. The M&NE case has madebedfellows out of even Alliance Pipeline and TransCanada PipeLines,with the arch-rivals both urging the NEB not to set any precedentsthat could affect relations between their construction or expansionprojects and native communities along their routes.

Gordon Jaremko, Calgary

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