Will remain on payroll of CIBC
By DENE MOORE, The Canadian Press
Northern Gateway has turned to former Conservative minister of Indian Affairs Jim Prentice to try to broker a deal with First Nations opposed to the multibillion-dollar pipeline project.
Prentice said Wednesday he was approached by the project partners and asked to revive negotiations.
"They've recognized the importance - the necessity - of building better relations with First Nations and arriving at economic partnerships with First Nations that are respectful of the environment and First Nations' jurisdiction," Prentice said.
Already, he'd spoken to Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and Chief Ed John of the First Nations Summit in B.C., as well as other aboriginal leaders.
"I have a lot of work to do, that's clear, but I knew that coming in," said Prentice, who has been a vocal proponent of both building the pipeline and including aboriginals in the economic benefits.
Protecting the environment is a priority, he said. "But I think the opportunity here for the country and for First Nations, in terms of jobs and opportunities for young First Nation Canadians, are enormous," he said.
"I feel obligated to be part of that discussion to try and find ways to work together."
He will take on the mediation in his capacity as a senior vice-president and vicechairman of CIBC, and will remain on the bank's payroll "because CIBC believes in the importance of this project," the bank said in a statement.
Prentice said he does not have a deadline but the clock is ticking on the project.
The 1,200-kilometre twin pipeline system would transport 525,000 barrels a day from Alberta's oilsands to a marine terminal on the B.C. coast, for export to Asia.
A joint federal review panel recommended approval of the proposal in December, and a final decision by the federal government is expected in June.
Most B.C. First Nations do not have treaties with the Crown, leaving a tangled web of rights and title that has further complicated the already controversial pipeline proposal.