Canada's Aboriginal Peoples Eye Role In Energy Projects

Canada’s top native leader says he wants aboriginal groups from across North America to examine energy and resource development issues on their traditional lands.

Shawn Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, says that although planning processes for major development projects take years, Indigenous peoples are usually brought in only at the end, despite their legal and cultural land claims.

“There has to be a paradigm shift on planning for resource development,” Atleo told reporters at a Vancouver news conference on aboriginal opposition to Enbridge Inc’s planned Northern Gateway pipeline.

The C$5.5 billion ($5.5 billion) line from the Alberta oil sands to British Columbia’s Pacific Coast has run into stiff opposition from native and environmental groups.

Atleo said it is important for native Indian leaders from both Canada and the United States to be involved because the projects are international in nature.

The energy and mining industries should learn from the federal government’s rejection of Taseko Mines Ltd’s proposed copper-gold project in British Columbia, which had strong aboriginal opposition, the head of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said at the new conference.

Ottawa blocked Taseko’s mine plan in early November, citing environmental concerns, overruling a green light the provincial government had given the project

Representatives of 61 First Nations in British Columbia said on Thursday they will oppose Enbridge’s bid to build the Northern Gateway pipeline to move crude from the oil sands to the port of Kitimat, giving Asia direct access to Canada’s vast oil sands reserves via tankers.

Enbridge said earlier this week it wants to work with aboriginal groups whose territories lie along the planned route. It is also offering the groups a 10 percent stake in the project.

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