During the 1950s and 1960s, the government had initiated the building of roads in the North, notably the Dempster Highway from Inuvik to Dawson City, in an effort to accommodate demands for the more efficient exploitation of Northern resources. When oil was discovered at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, in 1968, a proposal was made to build a pipeline that would run the length of the Mackenzie River and join existing pipeline systems in the south. Some 3,800 kilometres of land in the Northwest Territories would be affected by the pipeline system, but little thought was given to the consequences of the pipeline for the environment and the people who lived in the region. This indifference changed, however, as public protests led to the establishment of the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry in 1974. Headed by Justice Thomas Berger, the inquiry consulted with local people who would be affected by the pipeline and adopted a policy of open communication with the media on the testimony that was presented. The result was intense public interest and debate. Berger recommended that the pipeline project be suspended for 10 years to allow Native peoples a period of adjustment. Although a pipeline from Norman Wells south to Alberta was eventually completed, the proposed Alaska route has never been finished.

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Chinook Multimedia

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