The Enbridge Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel has finalized the time and place of the next round of hearings to be held in Prince Rupert.
The hearings will be held inside ceremonial room at the back of the Museum of Northern BC and are scheduled to start at 1:00 pm on April 16, and 9:00 am on April 17. The entire two days of hearings will be dedicated to hearing presentations made by representatives Gitxaala First Nation.
During the last two days of hearing in Prince Rupert, many of the intervenors who were there to give oral evidence found themselves being restricted in what they were allowed to say to the panel – often after objections were raised by Enbridge’s lawyer — a which lead many Pipeline opponents to feel that they were being “muzzled” and some lost faith in the Joint Review process altogether and decided to try to form a more overtly political response to the pipeline.
The reasoning behind restrictions on what intervenors were allowed to say is that the hearings’ objective is to collect “oral evidence.” The rules what counts as oral evidence are very specific.
According to the panel’s procedural rules, traditional First Nations oral knowledge and personal experiences that illustrate the possible affects of the pipeline on the region are what counts as admissible oral evidence. Technical or scientific information, opinions or experiences of anyone else other than the speaker, arguing the specifics of the project and recommendations on how the panel should rule do not count as oral evidence and are not allowed.
These were the rules that speakers were expected to abide by in the last hearings and they are the rules that speakers at the next hearings are expected to follow. Those waiting for an opportunity to argue for or against the pipeline explicitly are going to have to keep waiting for the time being.
More hearings are scheduled for Prince Rupert for May 24 – 26 and May 28 – 29, where the focus will change from collecting “oral evidence” to collecting “oral statements” which which will allow average people 10 to tell the panel about their concerns or interest in the pipeline project.
Unfortunately, if you haven’t already registered to give an oral statement you are out of luck, the deadline for registration was October 6, 2011. If you have registered to give a statement, you need to schedule your 10-minute time slot by May 17.