A rift among aboriginal groups over the proposed Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline is turning into a chasm, with three of the four key communities threatening to sue the hold-out Deh Cho First Nations for impeding their economic development.
The Inuvialuit, Gwich’in and Sahtu communities in the Mackenzie Delta and Central Mackenzie Valley regions pledged Oct. 4 to unite in fighting for the C$5 billion project. All three are strong backers of northern gas development and are full members of the Aboriginal Pipeline Group, which could gain a one-third ownership stake in the pipeline.
If necessary, they will file a counter-suit against the Deh Cho, said Nellie Cournoyea, chief executive officer of the Inuvialuit Regional Corp. and a former premier of the Northwest Territories.
Her anger was fueled by reports that the Deh Cho have been lobbying the three communities to support lawsuits filed in September in the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories and the Federal Court of Canada to halt the current environmental review process.
Cournoyea said the Deh Cho do not appear to have a clear idea what they want, but are prepared to “choke” off hopes of economic development in the more northerly communities.
The Deh Cho have demanded the right to appoint two of seven members on the joint environmental panel.
Leaders of the three communities expressed their feelings Oct. 1 in Inuvik at a meeting with Deh Cho Grand Chief Herb Norwegian.
Norwegian has said a pipeline will not be allowed to cross Deh Cho territory, which covers the lower 40 percent of the route, until the Deh Cho have a settlement of their land claim and are equal partners in the pipeline decision-making process.
Although there have been indications that filings could be made in October, there has been no confirmation from Imperial Oil, the lead partner.
Editor’s note: See full story in the Oct. 10 edition of Petroleum News, which will be released online this coming Friday (www.PetroleumNews.com).