Winter 2011] PREVENTING A PIPELINE TO NOWHERE 979
join the rest of North America’s two million miles of natural gas pipeline
matrix before arriving in the Midwest to heat American homes and power
American industry.10 A project of this magnitude faces many challenges, but
the pipeline’s biggest challenge may not come from shifting permafrost,
seismic activity, environmental safety requirements, or regulatory permitting
schemes. One of the biggest, and potentially the project’s costliest, challenges
is the unsettled land claims10 of the First Nations of Canada.11
A look at a map of the proposed pipeline route reveals a patchwork of
First Nations lands. The presence of these lands along the route has far-
reaching consequences for the pipeline project due to the inefficient and
lengthy process of formal negotiation currently utilized by the Canadian
government to settle comprehensive land claims,
12 and a 2004 ruling by the
Supreme Court of Canada in Haida Nation v. British Columbia.13
This Note uses the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act
14 as a model to
propose an alternative to the formal negotiation method of land claims
settlement. This Note also discusses the Haida decision in considerable depth
because its holding sets the standard for the constitutionality of proposed
settlements. The Haida Court held that the Canadian government has a duty
to consult with, accommodate the interests of, and act honorably toward,
First Nations before beginning any development projects on land owned
outright or claimed by First Nations. 15
10 MIDAMERICAN ENERGY, GAS TRANSMISSION: PIPELINE SAFETY (2008). There are two types of
land claims: specific and comprehensi ve. Land Claims, INDIAN AND N. AFF. CAN.,
http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/al/ldc/index-eng.asp (last visited Se pt. 23, 2010). Specific claims deal
with past grievances of First Nations related to the Canadian government’s obligations under
historic treaties or with regard to how the government managed the First Nation’s funds or other
assets. Id. “[S]pecific claims are not necessarily land-related.” Id. Comprehensive claims always
involve land and arise in areas where First Nation land rights have not been dealt with by treaty
or any other legal means. Id. This Note only discusses comprehensive claims.
11 There is no legal definition of the term “First Nations.” Terminology, INDIAN AND N. AFF. CAN.,
http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/ap/tln-eng.asp (last visited Sept. 23, 2010). “First Nations” refers
generally to the Aboriginal people of Canada. Id. There are three distinct groups of Aboriginal
people: Indians, Inuit, and Métis. Id. Each group possesses a unique heritage, language, culture,
and set of spiritual beliefs. Id. Furthermore, the Communications Branch of Indian and
Northern Affairs Canada recommends avoiding describing Aboriginal people as “belonging” to
Canada. INDIAN AND N. AFF. CAN. , WORDS FIRST: AN EVOLVING TERMINOLOGY RE LATING TO
ABORIGINAL PEOPLES IN CANADA 8 (2002), available at http://dsp-
psd.pwgsc.gc.ca/Collection/R2-236-2002E.pdf. Th at is why the sentence ends with the phrase
“First Nations of Canada” instead of the phrase “Canada’s First Nations.” See generally id.
12 See INDIAN AND N . AFF. CAN., RESOLVING ABORIGINAL CLAIMS: A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO
CANADIAN EXPERIENCES 22 (2003) [hereinafter ABORIGINAL CLAIMS].
13 Haida Nation v. British Columbia,  3 S.C.R. 511 ¶ 5, 2004 SCC 73 (Can.).
14 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, 43 U.S.C. §§ 1601–1624 (2009).
15 Haida, 3 S.C.R. 511 ¶ 9 (Can.).