(CBC News, 16 December 2010) -- The proposed gas pipeline from the Beaufort Sea to markets in southern Canada and the United States was billed in the 1970s as "the biggest project in the history of free enterprise." It was up to a Canadian judge, Mr. Justice Thomas Berger of British Columbia, to examine the impact of the pipeline on the people who lived in its path. Berger took to the job so thoroughly that some said he ran off with the terms of reference that established what was formally known as the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry, embarrassing the Liberal government that appointed him. Berger visited the Western Arctic the summer before the hearings formally opened. He and his wife travelled throughout the region, meeting informally with the Dene, Inuit, Métis and white residents who lived and worked in the North. He held formal hearings in Yellowknife, where the experts had their say. The most innovative part of the inquiry was the community hearings, held in tents and log cabins, sometimes outdoors, with many of them ending with traditional drum dances and delicious cookouts. On May 9, 1977, Berger's report was released in Ottawa. Significantly, Berger titled his report Northern Frontier, Northern Homeland, for above all he wanted the world to know that though the Mackenzie Valley may be the route for the biggest project in the history of free enterprise, people also live there. ... Berger continually referred back to his chosen title, as when he wrote: "I discovered that people in the North have strong feelings about the pipeline and large-scale frontier development. I listened to a brief by northern businessmen in Yellowknife who favour a pipeline through the North. Later, in a native village far away, I heard virtually the whole community express vehement opposition to such a pipeline. Both were talking about the same pipeline; both were talking about the same region — but for one group it is a frontier, for the other a homeland."
Posted 17 December 2010; 10:12:36 PM. Permalink