First Nations reiterate concerns on final day of N.B. Energy East hearings

First Nations reiterate concerns on final day of NEB Hearings in New Brunswick
WATCH ABOVE: After five days of talks, the National Energy Board's Energy East hearings have concluded in New Brunswick. TransCanada says the hearings have been key to learning about residents' concerns, while many First Nations members say they feel the organization hasn't been listening to what they've been saying. Global's Jeremy Keefe has more.

New Brunswick’s First Nations communities continued to express their concerns over TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline project during the National Energy Board (NEB) hearing’s final day in the province.

Day five of proceedings in New Brunswick saw eight intervenors speak to the panel, six of which represented First Nations.

READ MORE: Energy East pipeline is safe, good for country, TransCanada tells NEB hearings

Although the various bands say they had to act strategically to voice their many questions and concerns, right to the lands and waters they use to sustain themselves was a common theme throughout.

“We had a lot of concerns and issues but we had a 20 minute timeline to convey those concerns,” explained Megan Fullerton who spoke on behalf of the St. Mary’s First Nation. “So we used each community wisely and we all kind of had our bigger issues that we presented on.”

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“We’re here not to be quiet but to have very loud voices,” said Fullerton.

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Coming on the heels of TransCanada saying they would strive for consent at last week’s hearings in Saint John, Madawaska Maliseet First Nation representative Russ Letica asked the panel directly what consent means to them but wasn’t satisfied with the answer he was given.

“I thought it was a little evasive,” Letica said. “He gave me the answer to what striving meant and not the question I asked him.”

READ MORE: N.B. Mi’kmaq want Energy East concerns addressed before granting consent

Woodstock First Nation’s Gillian Paul was the day’s final intervenor, summing up the strong ties their culture has to the environment.

“They continue to have a deep spiritual connection to their territory and have proven rights to hunt, trap, fish and engage in other harvesting and traditional practices in this territory,” she explained to the panel.

“They also have claimed treaty and aboriginal rights to their lands, waters and resources including aboriginal titles that were never surrendered. This territory includes the area that the project will cross.”

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In their closing remarks TransCanada thanked the intervenors for voicing their concerns through the hearing process saying issues brought forward through their previous consultations have resulted in adaptations to their current pipeline route.

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“We really value this process really as a supplement to the engagement process we’ve been doing the last three years,” said John Van Der Put, vice president of safety and emergency response for the Energy East project.

“Here in New Brunswick we’ve made 100 separate changes to our pipeline route taking into consideration specific issues and concerns that have been brought forward to us.”

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The hearings have now adjourned until August 29 when they will resume in Montreal.