Pipeline Hearings in Canadian History

Justice Thomas Berger presides over Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry hearings at Fort Good Hope, 1975

Last Friday, the National Energy Board continued its community hearing process in Victoria, BC for the Enbridge-proposed Northern Gateway pipeline. As the hearings have now moved to the southern cities, including Victoria and Vancouver, the NEB decided to separate the public from the hearing proceedings under way at the Delta Ocean Point hotel. Out of concern that opponents to the pipeline proposal would disrupt the hearings, the audience has been sequestered to another hotel located about three kilometres away. The NEB plans to do the same during the hearings in Vancouver the following week. The pipeline hearings, which have been held across parts of northern BC for the past year have drawn a diverse range of opponents, including environmentalists, First Nations rights activists, and many other British Columbians.

Eric Kierans

This, of course, is not the first time that Canadians have spoken out against such a large-scale energy pipeline infrastructure project. During the 1970s, Justice Thomas Berger headed a public inquiry into the construction of a gas pipeline in the Mackenzie Valley. Ultimately, Berger’s inquiry recommended against the construction of the pipeline for a variety of economic, social, and environmental reasons. To learn more about the inquiry, readers should take a look at this article:

Sabin, Paul. “Voices from the Hydrocarbon Frontier: Canada’s Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry (1974-1977)” Environmental History Review 19.1 (1995): 17-48.

Even before the inquiry began, the company and the federal government held public forum events in Canadian cities to get feedback on the proposal. Those events featured a number of presentations by opponents whose arguments echo those heard recently in Victoria in regard to the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal.

The CBC Digital Archives has an excellent clip from a radio broadcast of a 1973 public forum in Toronto that conveys some sense of the opposition to the project. It features a presentation by Eric Kierans, a former cabinet minister, who was highly critical of the rapidity of the effort to exploit the energy resources of the Canadian North. He called for a broader public inquiry into the pipeline proposal. Kierans’s remarks demonstrate the continued anxiety of Canadians about the exploitation and export of natural resources.

[audio: http://seankheraj.com/1973canadianarcticgaspipelineform.mp3]
CBC Radio, 28 January 1973 [09:58]

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