Research Paper: Mackenzie Valley Region the River

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[. . .] During December 2004, the 21-page long list of flaws in the MGP EIS was released by the Joint Review Panel (Canadian Dimension, 2004).

Drivers of change in the Mackenzie Valley Region

It was in the 1970s when the first gas pipeline project was proposed for the Mackenzie Valley. It succeeded the exploration of considerable amount of gas and oil in the North Slope of Alaska that occurred in 1968. A number of important, some smaller, reserves of natural gas were also discovered around the same time in the area of Mackenzie Delta (U.S. Department of Energy, 2005). The gas reserves discovered in Alaska were considered to be sufficient enough to warrant the construction of a pipeline of their own. However, only a few people believed that about the gas reserves of the Mackenzie Delta (Pamela, 2007).

Even then a lot of investments were expended through a collaboration of the Canadian federal government, a number of pipeline development companies, oil firms, hydrocarbon industry and the Government of the Northwest Territories to establish the gas fields in the Mackenzie Delta. These members combined and collaborated to formulate plans for the construction of a pipeline that would enable the transfer of Alaskan gas, alongside the coast of Arctic to the Delta of Mackenzie where later it would be connected with the Canadian gas to flow together in a pipeline alongside the Valley of Mackenzie (Pamela, 2007).

Another application that suggested the establishment of the Alaskan gas recommended constructing a pipeline alongside Trans Alaska oil pipeline which would then go alongside the Alaska Highway and then finally to Alberta. None of the gas pipelines were constructed, even though the Foothills Pipe Lines, Ltd. acquired regulatory permissions for the Project of Alaska Highway Pipeline in the year, 1977. Regulatory review was also carried out over the Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline and was conducted by the National Energy Board and Royal Commission operating under Thomas R. Berger who was the Justice of the Supreme Court in British Columbia in those times (Pamela, 2007).

This regulatory review, which is known in many ways, most popularly as the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry or the Berger Inquire, was given the task of establishing the societal, environment-wide and financial influences, region-wise, of the establishment, function and the later extinguishing of the suggest pipeline in the area of Yukon and the Northwest Territories (Privy Council 1974-641, in Berger 1977a). Berger was known for his preference and understanding of wide interpretations related to aboriginal rights (Pamela, 2007).

He has served as the counsel of the plaintiffs in the Calder case which was groundbreaking in many aspects. In 1973, the case was followed by the affirmation of the Supreme Court in Canada to the presence of aboriginal rights with respect to traditional resources and lands that later assisted the government in establishing the foundation for the government's ultimate accord to discuss and address land claims (Pamela, 2007).

In spite of the aforementioned historical support, there is reason to believe that Berger was selected to lead the inquiry of the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline so as to offer a political cover to the project of resource development that the government of Canada wanted to construct, instead of being an independent and unbiased fact investigator (Dacks 1981, 136; McCullum, McCullum, and Olthuis 1977; as cited in Pamela, 2007).

The inquiry of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline continued for almost two years, beginning in early March 1975 and ending in later 1976. Berger is reported to have gathered relevant information from natural scientists along with industry representatives, from social scientists aware of the fact that the communities of Inuit and First Nation would be impacted by the construction of the pipeline. What differentiated this review from the ones that happened before or after it was the fact that this inquiry based its review over thirty five aboriginal rights communicated in the impacted areas and gathered evidences from over a thousand local people about their issues with the proposed pipelines and their lives (Pamela, 2007).

The witnesses of the aboriginal were quite united in their opposition against the pipeline with some of them being quite aggressive about it. However, most or even all of them did not express antagonism. Instead, they vouched their opinion from their own interactions and experience about their societal, cultural based and financial significance of a lifestyle based on subsistence and social inconsistencies they had underwent under the administration of Canada and their apprehensions that the establishment of the pipeline would give way to humungous disruptions. They also maintained that in spite of many modifications, their values, identities, social norms, etc. have proved to be something where they could derive personal security and strength from (Pamela, 2007).

The local evidence gathered was quite successful in opposing the discussions being disseminated among Canadian people and northern administrators that the local identities and values were diminishing. Furthermore, the people were increasingly relying upon the government for support and assistance. Each of the witnesses called for the testimony asserted that they were not reliant nor of insufficient means but maintained that if the pipeline was constructed, they would be forced to become so. This claim of theirs opposed the assertion of those who suggested that the main objective of constructing the pipeline was to facilitate the creation of employment opportunities and financial security for the residents in the north (Pamela, 2007).

A wary review of the report of the Inquiry depicted that Berger was aware that local cultures, society, economic system and identities were multifaceted. He is claimed to have stated that the local community is not stationary. What the local people stated in their testimony during the review must not be taking as a resentment concerning the lifestyle they had to give up but as a request for a chance to make their own future, given their history. Berger stated that the local people are not looking to solidify their past but are looking for ways to be constructive about it (Berger 1977a, Pamela, 2007).

However, the claim that Berger made in his report of two volumes, titled Northern Frontier Northern Homeland (1977a, 1977b) along with most of the assertions depicted in the Inquiry, did not help foster a subtle understanding of the wishes of the native people. For instance, Berger compared the native people with white civilization (1977a, 85), a difference that is reemphasized by the pictures chosen to depict the first volume of the report. These revolve around scenes from the village that consist of dehydrated animal skins, happy but not properly taken care of children and unkempt elders, apparently clear landscapes, wildlife and the outputs of technology of the white civilization (Pamela, 2007).

By observing the pictures, it is quite easy to decide that modernity which is depicted by the availability of electricity was only present in Yellowknife, the territorial capital. Even if the Inquiry depicted that the native people were surrounded by a stable economy, it maintained that the respective economic systems was quite different and definitely identifiable from the rest of the country. According to Berger, the local economy wasn't exactly in view of the white people and so it was usually sidelined (Berger 1977a, 101; as cited in Pamela, 2007).

Berger established eight particular suggestions related to the economic and resource formation in the region of Mackenzie Valley. More significantly, he suggested that the pipeline projected be taken up after ten years so that the aboriginal people would get sufficient time to settle their claims on the land and to secure social and legal protection that would earn them a share in the gains supposed to arise from the development (Pamela, 2007).

Michelle Ivanitz, an anthropologist (1985) is of the view that the testimonies that the Berger Commission collected served to play an important role in altering the discussion about the feasibility and continuity of the cultures in the north. This translated into real implications for the northern administration. After the regulatory review was carried out the, the official policies and plan of integrating the local natives with the Canadian culture was given up (Pamela, 2007).

The Berger Inquiry had huge implications. It convinced the NEB (National Energy Board) to widen the scope of their inquiry of the pipeline project proposal and extend it to cover socio economic effects of constructing the pipeline. Eventually, the application was rejected by the Board in 1977. This inquire also proved to be instrumental in modifying developmental customs existent near the native lands, so that resource development in Canada could not take place without incorporating the views of the impacted aboriginal communities (Pamela, 2007).

The Northern Service of CBC Radio, with Berger's support offered uninterrupted recording and interpretation of the hearings into the local language so the residents in the village were apprised of the claims made by each witness. The southern media also provided sufficient coverage of the hearings… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Mackenzie Valley Region the River.  (2011, January 29).  Retrieved June 15, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/mackenzie-valley-region-river/7774930

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"Mackenzie Valley Region the River."  Essaytown.com.  January 29, 2011.  Accessed June 15, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/mackenzie-valley-region-river/7774930.