Coons says Enbridge is trying to “silence voices of the north coast”

Gary Coons
MLA Gary Coons speaks to reporters at Mariners Memorial Park in Prince Rupert prior to the No To Tankers rally, Feb. 4, 2012 (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

Gary Coons, the NDP member of the British Columbia Legislative Assembly for North Coast, has told the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel that Enbridge is “attempting to silence voices from the North Coast” by asking to limit the time of non-aboriginal intervenors before the panel.

Earlier Monday, Enbridge filed a motion with the Joint Review Panel asking that it limit non-aboriginal intervenors appearing before the panel in Prince Rupert this weekend to just 10 minutes. As well as Coons, Enbridge singled out the Member of Parliament for Skeena Bulkley Valley, Nathan Cullen, also a candidate for the NDP leadership, the T. Buck Suzuki Foundation and the United Food and Commercial Workers union.

Enbridge says that the presentations will be a violation of a panel ruling that in this phase presentations must limited to personal knowledge.

Monday afternoon, Coons responded by filing a letter with the JRP that says:

I am disappointed and concerned that Enbridge is attempting to silence voices from the North Coast riding by limiting the time for oral evidence that is allocated to non-aboriginal participants to 10 minutes.

I can assure those concerned with my oral evidence that I have done my due diligence, I’ve studied the Procedural Direction for giving evidence (Procedural Direction #4), and will fall within the parameters of such. I believe I have a responsibility, and a right, as a resident of Prince Rupert for 35 years, to share my “personal knowledge, my experiences and the potential effects of the project on me and my community” and I will, as requested, “briefly share my point of view regarding the decision the Panel should make on the Project.”

More importantly, I have an obligation as MLA to submit oral evidence on behalf my constituents and of all communities that I have been entrusted to represent.  As MLA, my “community” covers the North Coast riding. I have spent the last 6 months preparing for my presentation, knowing that there is criteria set out by the panel.

It does a great disservice to me and many others for Enbridge to attempt to change the rules at this point in the process and seek to limit the participation of those of us who are non-aboriginal to ten minutes.  On July 30, 2011, I applied for and received from the panel 60 minutes to present oral evidence. Is Enbridge suggesting that the panel is not experienced enough to determine who may give oral evidence and how much time should be allocated to each participant?  Surely these are decisions that should be made by the independent members of the panel, rather than lobbied for by those who stand to benefit by silencing the voices of those who would be most affected by this project.

The Joint Review Panel has done their due diligence by informing all interveners through written directions and in their opening remarks at each community hearing about the nature of their role as participants in the oral hearing and the directions they need to follow. The Panel is more than able to ensure that participants abide by these directions, and have been freely doing so throughout the process thus far. There are mechanisms in place which would allow Enbridge to object to testimony that they don’t believe meets the requirements of the Panel, and the Panel themselves should be responsible for ruling on objections as they arise.

Please take this response as a request to refuse the proposal put forward by Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines Limited.

Enbridge asks JRP to limit Cullen, Suzuki Foundation, other non-aboriginals speaking at Prince Rupert hearings

Enbridge today filed a motion with the Northern Gateway Joint Review hearings asking that the Member of Parliament for Skeena Bulkley Valley, Nathan Cullen, also a candidate for the NDP leadership, local MLA Gary Coons and others, including the T. Buck Suzuki Foundation, be barred from speaking more than 10 minutes before the hearings in Prince Rupert scheduled for Friday and Saturday of this week.
Related: Coons says Enbridge is trying to “silence voices of the north coast”

It also appears from the motion filed by Enbridge that it seeks to limit the time before the panel both at Prince Rupert and in the future by any intervenor who is not aboriginal to just 10 minutes.

Enbridge’s letter to the JRP says:

The Joint Review Panel (“Panel”) has Community Hearings scheduled in Prince Rupert, British Columbia on Friday, February 17 and Saturday, February 18, 2012. Northern Gateway anticipates that several individuals and organizations will appear, including: Mr. Gary Coons (MLA North Coast), Mr. Nathan Cullen (MP Skeena-Bulkley Valley), the Métis Nation of British Columbia, Metlakatla First Nation, T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation, and the United Fisherman and Allied Workers Union.

In the Community Hearings to date, in Northern Gateway’s opinion, the majority of the oral evidence from non-Aboriginal participants has not met the criteria set out by the Panel in Procedural Direction #4. Many of the submissions have been in the nature of argument, or have addressed matters that were properly the subject of written evidence. There will be an opportunity to provide argument to the Panel in due course.

In addition to the written directions the Panel has already issued, Northern Gateway appreciates that the Panel continues to provide directions to intervenors regarding the nature of evidence that will assist the Panel in its opening remarks at each Community Hearing.

To further assist the parties and the efficiency of the process, Northern Gateway requests that the Panel consider limiting the time for oral evidence that is allocated to non-Aboriginal participants  to 10 minutes each, unless the intervenor is able to justify additional time in accordance with  Procedural Direction #4. Northern Gateway believes that this would allow the hearing in Prince Rupert to conclude on Friday, February 17th, while still enabling intervenors to provide oral evidence.


The January ruling that in the first round that panel would hold “Community Hearings” has caused anger and confusion ever since the hearings began in Kitimat on January 10. The panel concentrates hearing “traditional knowledge” from aboriginal participants and “local knowledge” from non-aboriginal, but cut off all witnesses whenever they stray into what the panel considers arguments, saying they will have an opportunity to make those arguments at some unspecified time in the future set aside for final arguments.

(more to come)

Northern Gateway Pipelines Letter to_the JRP Prince Ruper Hearing


A84 Panel Commission Letter to all Parties_-Clarification of Oral Evidence and Questioning at the Community Hearings