The head of the Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) says friendly banter about a “nice shirt” the Manitoba regional chief Kevin Hart was wearing on an airplane has deteriorated into bickering over pipelines.
Both men were on a flight to Vancouver Nov. 3 for a national meeting of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. There they say their dispute continued on the convention floor as they took turns at the mic outlining their politics.
“I see David Chartrand on the plane reacting to the deal with that smug look and smile and everything we all know David Chartrand for,” said Hart, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) regional chief in Manitoba.
“Portraying they have the same rights as First Nations people.”
Hart was referring to the multi-million-dollar-agreement the MMF signed with Enbridge in September.
“He overdramatizes everything. I said he had a nice shirt,” added Chartrand. “Yeah, we have a partnership with Enbridge. He said, ‘I don’t like it. You don’t own that land.’ He walked past me.
Hart also took to Facebook to share his view.
Chartrand said the deal – the Co-operation and Settlement Agreement – was signed in Winnipeg with Al Monaco, the president and CEO of Enbridge.
“How dare he say I have no land?’ said Chartrand, who calls Manitoba the traditional territory of the Metis Nation in Canada.
“How the hell do I have a smug look? I always look the same.”
Chartrand said the 10-year agreement will employ Metis workers alongside Enbridge contractors who are replacing the 50-year-old Line 3 that runs through Manitoba.
“I represent the largest nation in Canada; there are 400,000 of us,” Chartrand said. “We support pipelines as an economic strategy on a sustainable basis.”
The deal means skills training and an opportunity to share expertise on making pipelines less detrimental to the environment, Chartrand added.
“It’s a very lucrative idea – our Elders and youth want a strong environmental component at the same time as creating jobs.”
But Hart said he will fight the MMF. Even if it means stopping the Enbridge deal in court.
“When I was first elected, my mandate I ran on is for the protection of our women and children,” he said. “Further to that I made a promise to Autumn Pelletier I would protect the water for her.
“We’re the first people of this land. Period … My job is to advocate to protect those rights.”
Pelletier, a 13-year-old girl from Wikwemikong First Nation in northern Ontario, made headlines for confronting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about pipelines a year ago. She has since been nominated for Nobel prize for children for her clean water work.
Hart’s anti-pipeline position puts him in conflict with ‘Pipeline Perry’, a nickname for AFN Grand Chief Perry Bellegarde, who is accused of being pro-development.
But Chartrand said there’s nothing wrong with wanting a slice of the pipeline pie. He says aging infrastructure has to be replaced – metre by metre – now and in the future.
“He went on a diatribe there in Vancouver,” he said of Hart. “But we have a clear, balanced approached. Many chiefs understand that and have respect for each side.”
In fact, Chartrand says a number of chiefs in Manitoba have also signed agreements with Enbridge. Yet they don’t want publicity for fear of negative push back.
A spokesperson for Enbridge confirmed the deal with the MMF is part of the multibillion-dollar Line 3 Replacement Program (L3RP) – the largest project in Enbridge history.
“Line 3 replacement uses the most up-to-date technology and construction methods,” Monaco said in the speech he gave upon signing the agreement. “But what we are most proud of is that we’ve undertaken the most comprehensive engagement program ever – with more than 150 Métis and First Nation communities and organizations across the Prairies.
“We’re very pleased to have signed 70 agreements with 48 communities and organizations.”
On the Canadian side, Enbridge plans to spend $5.3 billion upgrading the pipeline between its Hardisty Terminal in east-central Alberta and Gretna, Manitoba.
On the American side, that bill will run to $2.9 billion U.S.
Jeff Gaulin of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers says economic development has a role to play in reconciliation. He was in Winnipeg this week for a conference on economic development with the Metis Nation.
“We make it a part of our business to do business with Aboriginal peoples,” said Gaulin, a vice-president.
“We did almost $4 billion in business in 2014 with about 300 Aboriginal businesses in more than 50 communities in Alberta alone.”
Gaulin says there’s been a shift in the last five years in how the industry operates. He says it has moved to include Indigenous traditional knowledge in the business model going forward.
“There’s been a generational change in the oil and gas industry,” he explained. “One that looks for more collaboration and less conflict.”
Monaco, who was gifted a traditional Metis vest from Chartrand at the signing, says Métis citizens will participate in emergency response activities as part of pipeline management in the long term.
And construction work in the short term.
Enbridge said it is offering ‘Pipeline 101 training’ at Dakota Tipi First Nation west of Winnipeg, to give more Aboriginal people a crack at jobs.
“By year end (we) expect approximately 250 Indigenous peoples will have successfully completed this training, many of whom are already working on the Line 3 Replacement project.”
Still, Hart is looking for more in exchange for his support. Which on Facebook ,at least, appears to be pretty thin.
“The fossil fuel industry is a very dirty industry,” he said. “We don’t want to go deeper in the hole to protect our climate, environment and water.”
He said Indigenous people can help clean up the industry and make it more environmentally friendly. Something he says Manitoba Hydro has finally embraced after decades of flooding traditional territory in the northern part of the province.
“One of the arguments I have is to incorporate traditional law and knowledge from a First Nation’s perspective.”
Hart said Manitoba Hydro is working with elders to adapt design work and pipeline producers should do the same to minimize environmental impact.
“We’re the rights holders and land holders,” he said of the MMF’s deal in Treaty 1 territory. “We have sovereignty over land and water and air.
“We’re the first people of this land. Period.”