Today we filed a motion to the Joint Review Panel examining the Northern Gateway project to ensure that the process maintains its
integrity and is fair to all parties involved — whether they are environmental groups, First Nations, individual citizens or industry groups.

The proposed pipeline project is one of the most significant, and controversial, public interest issues in recent memory. The decision around whether or not to build this pipeline is going to affect our country — both the people who live here and the environment — for a long time to come.

A JRP is overseeing the public review process, hearing from more than 200 interveners, including oil companies, environmental groups and community groups, and judge whether the project should proceed.

This review process is rooted in facts and science — not politics — and it is the most comprehensive and transparent way to fairly weigh the project’s environmental consequences against its  economic merits. Given the impact this project would have on our
country, it’s absolutely critical that this process is objective,
representative of all interests and conducted with integrity and fairness.

This isn’t just an ethical issue – it’s about the principles of fairness and due process.

Our motion asks for two things. First we want the JRP to investigate and comment on whether the Government of Canada has undermined the review process. Second, we want the JRP to issue a statement that affirms its independence, compels government to stop commenting on the process while it is underway, and confirms that all witnesses and evidence will be considered fairly.

We filed this motion because Ecojustice believes those participating in the process — and all Canadians — need to hear from the JRP
that its process has not been compromised by recent political controversy.

This month, the Prime Minister and Natural Resource Minister
Joe Oliver singled out “environmental and other radical groups” for threatening to “hijack” the regulatory system to achieve a “radical ideological agenda” and undermine Canada’s national economic interest.

Minister Oliver has gone so far as to say that he expects the JRP to rule in favour of the project.

Meanwhile, internal documents detailing the government’s strategy for promoting oilsands projects overseas, released by Greenpeace yesterday, labelled environmental groups, First Nations groups and the media as “adversaries.”

The JRP is the government-authorized judge of whether or not the pipeline should be built. It has the authority and responsibility to protect its role as the ultimate decision-maker, and to ensure that the independent review process is not tainted by what is being said in the court of public opinion.

Our motion comes as the government announced its intentions
to overhaul the way regulators review industrial projects so they can be approved more quickly.

Plans to gut the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act
(CEAA) became clear to Ecojustice when the federal government buried amendments to CEAA in the 2010 budget bill, which had more than 2,000 sections. The move allowed the government to avoid public scrutiny and Parliamentary debate on the amendments, which ultimately weakened our 2009 Supreme Court victory on the Red Chris Mine case.

by Barry Robinson and Karen Campbell