UPDATE: JRP panel responds to motion seeking confirmation of impartiality
See what the Panel had to say and find out what it means for the Northern Gateway review process
By Barry Robinson, staff lawyer
Last week, in the wake of troubling comments from the Prime Minister and his ministers, Ecojustice filed a motion to the Joint Review Panel examining the Northern Gateway project, asking it to protect the integrity of its process from outside influence.
On Monday, we got a response:
“The Panel is an independent quasi-judicial tribunal tasked with making decisions under the National Energy Board Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
Accordingly, the Panel will make its decision based on the evidence on the record of this proceeding. In doing so, it will not consider or respond to information reported in the press or elsewhere that is not on that record.”
Although the panel ultimately rejected our motion, Ecojustice welcomed this declaration of independence. The JRP’s response addresses the core issue that motivated Ecojustice and our clients to act in the first place — which was the concern that comments made by politicians shouldn’t interfere with an evidence-based process that will make the final recommendation on whether the pipeline should proceed.
The proposed pipeline project is one of the most significant, and controversial, public interest issues in recent memory. Ecojustice is representing three groups in the review process: ForestEthics, Living Oceans Society and Raincoast Conservation Foundation.
Given the impact the proposed pipeline would have on our country, Ecojustice and our clients believe it’s absolutely critical that this review process remain objective, representative of all interests and conducted with integrity and fairness. This isn’t just an ethical issue — it’s about the legal principles of due process.
In its response, the Panel is making a promise to all Canadians to evaluate the Northern Gateway project based on evidence provided by all sides of the issue. This includes evidence that the pipeline and the risk of an oil spill it brings could irreversibly damage our forests and coasts — and all the species that depend on them.
An oil spill wouldn’t just devastate the environment. Our coastal economies like fishing and ecotourism are at risk, too. Is that a fair trade-off for short-term jobs? Let’s see what the panel says.Photo by Sean Nixon, staff lawyer