Cullen files objection to Enbridge request for time limit on JRP speakers

Nathan Cullen
MP Nathan Cullen speaks at a meeting of halibut fishing guides in this April 1, 2011 file photo. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

Nathan Cullen, MP for Skeena Bulkley Valley, and a candidate for the leadership of the New Democratic Party, has filed a formal objection with the Northern Gateway Joint Review panel to Enbridge’s request that non-aboriginal speakers be limited to just ten minutes, saying he is “shocked at such attempts to change the rules mid-hearings.”

If granted, the time limit would apply beginning at the hearings in Prince Rupert this weekend.

The village of Old Massett on Haida Gwaii also filed a letter of comment objecting to Enbridge’s stance, calling Enbridge’s request “a mockery of the whole [JRP] process.” A number of people who also filed letters of comment on their own behalf objecting to the Enbridge motion.

In his letter, Cullen says:

It is my duty, and right, as Member of Parliament for Skeena-Bulkley Valley to express and defend the views and interests of my constituents. I have spoken with constituents across Northwest British Columbia and most residents in the riding have expressed concerns regarding the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. It is for this reason that I decided to participate in the review process.

When assessing how best to participate, I chose to act as an intervenor, in part, because it offered more than 10 minutes to address the Panel. I am sure the Panel can appreciate that Skeena-Bulkley Valley is one of the largest federal ridings in Canada with diverse communities. Sharing my personal knowledge and breadth of experiences from over seven years representing and working with these communities cannot be done in 10 minutes or in writing. I therefore requested, and was granted, 45 minutes for oral evidence.

It was with grave concern that I read the letter submitted February 13, 2012 – a mere five days before I will speak to the Panel – requesting that non-Aboriginal participants giving oral evidence have their time limited to 10 minutes. I am shocked at such attempts to change the rules mid-hearings.

Cullen says the letter from Ken MacDonald, Vice President Law and Regulatory for Enbridge Northern Gateway covers two seperate issues. The first is that non-Aboriginal participants presenting oral evidence not stray from the guidelines to speak about traditional or personal knowledge. Cullen says “this directive is a fair request.”

He then adds, “limiting speaking time neither guarantees nor is necessary to ensure
that presenters follow the guidelines. I can therefore only read this request as an effort to silence, among others, elected officials.”

Although Cullen says “presenters must diligently ensure that their oral evidence is within the realms established by all Procedural Directions” and adds “ The Panel has its set of tools that it can use to ensure that speakers do not stray from those directives and it should remain
in the hands of the Panel to make such judgments,” experience at the hearings shows that whether the witness is aboriginal or non-aboriginal, there is usually a grey line between recounting traditional or personal knowledge and expressing fears based on that knowledge. The panel permits the former but tries to cut off “arguments” when the witness crosses that grey line.

Cullen concludes, “I can assure you I have prepared my evidence with this in mind.”

John Disney, Economic Development Officer for Old Massett, filed a comment on behalf of the village council:

This office on behalf of the community of Old Massett wish to strongly object to the above quoted letter submitted by Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines (ENGP) to the JRP pertaining to the Prince Rupert hearing schedule. It is preposterous that the proponent of this entire project is now trying to influence the process that is purported to be separate and at arms length from themselves.

ENGP should not and must not have any influence on the process. They have made their application and should now be patient and await the outcome of the process. Anything less is a flagrant violation of the democratic process and for them to think they can now step in and ‘change the rules’ is arrogant at the least and violates all democratic principles at the worst.

This office therefore strongly recommends that this request be denied and the process be allowed to continue. The non-aboriginal interveners and their representatives have a strong and very relevant message to present to the JRP. To curtail this message would make a mockery of the entire process.

Nathan Cullen’s response to Northern Gateway Pipelines request to limit time (pdf)

Old Massett Village Council Letter of Comment pdf