Email this articleE-mail this story  Discuss this articleWrite letter to editor  Discuss this articleOrder a classified ad

Construction questions quashed

Stephan Burnett
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Mar 09/05) - Questions about language and intervenor funding were major flashpoints at a meeting about the proposed Mackenzie Valley Pipeline March 3 at Northern United Place.

Northern Gas Project Secretariat executive director Brian Chambers refused to discuss pipeline construction issues at the meeting.

Youth activist Jennifer Duncan raised concerns over language barriers during a meeting to discuss the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline. Pipeline advocates argue interpreters are available when required, but they are not needed in Yellowknife.

"We can't comment on any substantive matters being covered by the National Energy Board," he said.

Joint Review Panel (JPR) manager Paula Pachulak said the group's main purpose was to field questions, provide opportunities for public comment and consider traditional knowledge.

But later, when Laura Tutcho read a prepared speech in Slavey, there were no interpreters available.

Immediately following her presentation, Jennifer Duncan, a co-founder of the Arctic Indigenous Youth Alliance, expressed concern over the absence of aboriginal language interpreters.

Meeting organizers said language wasn't an issue.

"The only person here who might require an interpreter is Laura (Tutcho)," said Bob Turner, a community relations and logistics manager with the Northern Gas Project Secretariat. "We have no concerns with regard to interpreters."

"Should interpreters be there to encourage involvement? Or should aboriginal people show up knowing everything will be in English?" she said. "I thought it was disrespectful for the Northern Gas Project Secretariat to say, 'We knew no aboriginal people would show up, so there's no interpreters."

Duncan also said neither the Inuvik nor the Yellowknife secretariat offices provide ongoing aboriginal language interpretation.

Kevin O'Reilly, registered as an individual intervenor with the JRP, wondered why the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency wasn't at the meeting.

The agency administers intervenor funding for the panel.

Duncan said her group was approved for support in December, "and now it's March and we still haven't received our funding."

O'Reilly also argued the process has yet to provide meaningful answers to individuals concerned with the building of the pipeline.

"I do think they have a difficult job to explain what's going on, but it seems a cookie-cutter, lowest-common-denominator approach," he said. "That's not going to cut it in Yellowknife where people ask questions and demand answers."