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MP says Enbridge project behind decision to remove Humpback Whales from threatened species list

Humpback whales are no longer considered a threatened species. - File photo
Humpback whales are no longer considered a threatened species.
— image credit: File photo

Skeena — Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen is pulling no punches when it comes to a government decision to remove the North Pacific Humpback Whale from the list of threatened species.

"I think it's brutal. It's incredibly cynical," he said, adding he has no doubt the decision relates to the Enbridge Northern Gateway.

"The timing is incredibly suspicious. There is just over a month to decide on the pipeline and in many court filings the complaint from people on the North Coast was that the whales were at risk and nothing was being done to address it. So the government just changed the law ... I would like to say I am surprised by the Conservatives, but with these guys it is tough to be surprised by how low they will go to ram this pipeline through. They'll do anything and everything for one pipeline."

The change was published in the Canadian Gazette and changes the status of the whales from "threatened" to "species of special concern", with the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans citing a 50 per cent increase in population over the last three generations and protection from commercial whale hunting. The change means the whales are no longer protected under the Species At Risk Act and its "critical habitat" would no longer need to be protected either, although a management plan will need to be created within three years of the reclassification.

The government said it send out 312 consultation letters to First Nations, tourism industry representatives, government and non-government organizations in 2011 and received 22 in return. Of those 22, 13 were opposed while five were in favour and four were undecided, equating to 59 per cent opposition.

However, Cullen said the feedback alone should be a cause for concern.

"How few people engaged in the consultation speaks volumes. A lot of First Nations and community groups I have spoken to are just disengaged because the don't pretend to believe this is a true consultation from government," he said.

"This is just such a bad way to run a country ... it is doing so much damage to the public trust."

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