Legacies of Berger to delve into Canada’s pipeline history

The contentious issue of pipelines dominates today’s headlines and political debates, much like it did during the Berger Inquiry decades ago.

On Oct. 2, Douglas College will host a free in-depth panel discussion, Legacies of Berger, to debate the lasting legacy of then-BC Supreme Court Justice Thomas R. Berger, who headed the commission from 1974 to 1977.

The panel discussion is open to the public and will be held Oct. 2, 7-9pm at the Laura C. Muir Theatre at the College’s New Westminster Campus, 700 Royal Avenue. Prior to the panel will be the official opening of the Thunder in our Voices exhibit at 5:30pm. The exhibit provides a multimedia perspective into the commission.

The Legacies of Berger will explore the history and contemporary ramifications of the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry, says Anthropology instructor Jaime Yard.

“Attendees will delve into this complex, unprecedented, and, to the best of my knowledge, unduplicated, process of consultation with communities about the potential environmental and social effects of pipeline development in the north,” says Yard. “The panel brings together a group of scholars who have spent decades engaged in research on indigenous and non-indigenous political movements, history, health and land use.”

The panel will feature Dr. Michael Asch, an anthropologist who was an expert witness at the Berger Inquiry; Drew Ann Wake, exhibition curator and documentary filmmaker; Dr. Peter Stephenson, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology and chair of the School of Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria; and Dr. Glen Sean Coulthard, member of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation and an assistant professor in the First Nations and Indigenous Studies Program and the Department of Political Science at UBC.

Justice Berger was appointed by the federal government to hold hearings into a proposed natural-gas pipeline from the Beaufort Sea, along the Mackenzie Valley, to U.S. markets. Berger’s extensive consultation with communities set a precedent for conducting hearings on large industrial projects.

To reserve seats for the panel, visit https://bergerlegacy.eventbrite.ca

Also featured at the Amelia Douglas Gallery on the New Westminster campus is the Thunder in our Voices exhibition.

The exhibition, which runs until Oct. 23, is the product of Wake’s work with five generations of Inuvialuit and Dene families. The story began when she was a young reporter with the CBC covering the inquiry. For eighteen months she attended both the formal hearings in Yellowknife and community hearings in a dozen Dene and Inuvialuit communities across the North West Territories.

Seven years ago, she found a suitcase of her old audio tapes in storage. From 2008 to 2015, she travelled with photographer Linda MacCannell, down the Mackenzie River from the B.C. border to the Beaufort Sea. In each community, Wake and MacCannell gave classroom workshops so children and teenagers could produce images and videos to contribute to the Thunder in our Voices exhibition.

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