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Biography / Administrative history
The Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry was established by P. C. 1974-641 of 21 March 1974. Justice Thomas R. Berger was empowered "to inquire into and report upon the terms and conditions that should be imposed in respect of any right-of-way that might be granted across Crown lands for the purposes of the proposed Mackenzie Valley Pipeline." The Inquiry was to pay special regard to "the social, environmental, and economic impact regionally of the construction, operation and subsequent abandonment of the proposed pipeline in the Yukon and Northwest Territories."
Berger was authorized to hold hearings in the Territories and elsewhere, summon witnesses to testify under oath, compel the production of documents, and engage the services of engineers, technical advisers, legal council, and suitable clerical and reporting assistance. His final two-volume Report appeared during 1977. Volume I, Northern Frontier Northern Homeland, dealt in broad general terms with the social, cultural, economic and environmental impacts of an energy corridor and gas pipeline in the Mackenzie Valley, and with the issue of native claims. Volume II, Terms and Conditions, dealt with the social, economic, environmental and technical and construction conditions to be imposed if the pipeline were built and the energy corridor established. The main recommendations were that, because of environmental factors, no pipeline or energy corridor should be permitted across the Northern Yukon; that delivery of Alaskan gas to the Lower 48 States would be best accomplished by the Alaskan Highway route; that the construction of a pipeline along the Mackenzie Valley would be feasible from an environmental point of view; and that any Mackenzie Valley pipeline of energy corridor should be postponed for ten years to allow for a settlement of native land claims. The National Energy Board reached similar conclusions and the Government adopted the Alaska Highway Route as official policy and on that basis concluded an agreement with the United States.
The Reports, which were presented to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, were based on presentations and arguments brought forth by a number of native, environmental and oil and gas companies. Preliminary hearings were at Yellowknife, Inuvik, Whitehorse and Ottawa during May and June 1974 and again at Yellowknife in September 1974. Preliminary rulings were issued on 12 July and 29 October 1974. Commencing 3 March 1975, a week of overview hearings began at Yellowknife where a number of participants made opening statements without cross-examination, on the general subjects of importance to the inquiry. Those making presentations were: the Canadian Arctic Gas Pipeline Limited; Foothills Pipelines Limited; Canadian Arctic Resources Committee (CAR) representing the Canadian Nature Federation, Federation of Ontario Naturalists, Pollution Prove, and the Canadian Environmental Law Association; Commission Counsel; Special Counsel; Committee for Original Peoples Entitlement (COPE); Council for Yukon Indians; Environment Protection Board; Indian Brotherhood of the Northwest Territories/Metis Association of the Northwest Territories; Northwest Territories Mental Health Association; Northwest Territories Association of Municipalities; Northwest Territories Chamber of Commerce; and the Imperial Oil Limited, Gulf Oil Limited, and Shell Canada Limited.
Formal hearings began on 11 March 1975 with the witnesses called by each participant presenting evidence that was subject to cross-examination. In addition to the formal hearings, the Inquiry travelled between April 1975 and August 1976 to all 35 communities in the Mackenzie Valley region, the Delta and Beaufort Sea Region and the Northern Yukon to hear evidence from residents in their own languages in their home communities. In May and June 1976, hearings were also held in ten major centres throughout Canada from Vancouver to Halifax. The hearings ended in Yellowknife on 19 November 1976 following a week of final arguments by the participants.
The records of the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry were transferred to the National Archives of Canada in February 1978. All records are open to the public for research purposes.
1974: The Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry under Mr. Justice Thomas R. Berger was created to investigate the conditions under which Arctic gas could be transported from the Mackenzie Delta to southern markets. The Northern Pipelines unit of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development worked with the Berger Commission from 1974 to 1977 by supplying staff and expertise for this widely publicized study. The possible impact of northern pipeline construction on social and cultural life, and on native land claims, which was highlighted by the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry and the contemporary Alaska Highway Pipeline Inquiry (Lysyk Commission), increased the importance of the pipeline and environmental units of the Northern Affairs Program.
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