‘I’m standing my ground’: Métis president vows to continue pipeline protest in northern Alberta
A handful of protestors have vowed to continue to block access roads to prevent crews from entering the construction site of a TransCanada natural gas pipeline near Chard in northern Alberta, a protest that has now stretched into its fifth day.
President of the Chard Métis Society, Raoul Montgrand, said despite undertaking consultations with First Nations in the region, the company had not allayed his fears of the pipeline’s route or its impact on his community’s “traditional way of life.”
The society represents about 158 community members.
According to TransCanada’s website, the proposed 20-kilometre Kettle River Lateral Loop will cross Christina River, about 100 km southeast of Fort McMurray.
“All I want is my consultation rights,” Montgrand said during an interview from the protest site Monday.
Up to a dozen protesters have shown up at the site daily and RCMP have attended the scene which has remained peaceful.
“They are going to lay pipe across the Christina River,” said Montgrand. “We’ve lived right next door to it all our life and it’s our only water resource we have.
“They want to put in a pipeline not even five kilometres from our home. That’s too close for comfort.”
During National Energy Board (NEB) hearings two years ago, the Chard Métis voiced their concerns the project, in particular the river crossing, would have “an adverse impact on Chard Métis members’ continuous and ongoing exercise of activities, practices, traditions, and customs significantly related to the lands at issue.”
The group argued the project “would have cumulative adverse impacts and that it is no longer able to hunt, fish, gather or practice its traditional way of life as it used to.”
Chard Métis asked to be on site to monitor construction and watercourse crossings, something Montgrand said was not happening.
The project was formally approved by the federal government on Oct. 31, 2016, and last Friday, TransCanada received the NEB green light to start construction on rights-of-way.
TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard said the federal government reviewed and approved the NEB recommendations for the project and determined the Crown had “adequately consulted with affected indigenous and Metis communities.”
“The National Energy Board reviewed our project plans and determined that the project did not have significant environmental or wildlife impacts,” he said.
“As with all our projects, we engage with indigenous communities through our regulatory process to understand project-specific impacts and concerns that relate to aboriginal and treaty rights in traditional territory.
“We take a community-driven engagement approach throughout the project – including trying to find business opportunities for indigenous communities.”
But that’s not good enough for Montgrand who said he plans to continue the protest to protect a way of life.
“I’m standing my ground,” he said.
“We live on this land. This is our backyard.
“This is not just for me, this is for everybody across Alberta and across Canada.”
Howard said TransCanada respected the right of people to share their views on their projects, “as long as their activities do not create safety issues for the public, our employees, contractors or themselves.”
“We understand that the Chard Metis have raised some questions regarding this project, and we are listening to them and will continue to engage in constructive discussions with them about this project – as we have done for quite some time,” he said.