On December 19, 2013 the Joint Review Process released its report on Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project which included 209 recommended requirements for approval of the project. On June 17, 2014, the federal cabinet announced that it would approve the project. The proposed 1,177 kilometre pipeline would carry 525,000 barrels of oil a day from northern Alberta to the Pacific Coast, passing through the lands and traditional territories of many First Nations.
The First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC), which is composed of the BC Assembly of First Nations, First Nations Summit, and Union of BC Indian Chiefs, is completely disgusted at this decision.
“This was the announcement we expected from the Harper Government. They have continued to blatantly ignore what British Columbians and First Nations citizens have continually and unequivocally stated – the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project cannot go ahead. There is an undeniable and inherent risk attached to this project and the idea of a catastrophic ecological disaster is unacceptable for the people of this Province. Delaying this project will only serve to fortify the opposition to this project,” stated Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. “For First Nations who have unceded Title and Rights over our territories we will do everything necessary and whatever it takes to stop this project. We are prepared to go to unprecedented lengths to conserve and protect our territories and waters from heavy oil.”
“As we have stated time and time again, this project has been yet another prime example of how not to do business in this province. What we have witnessed is government and industry once again ignoring First Nations’ constitutionally-protected Title and Rights in order to push through another resource development project. The necessary consultation standard for any development project in BC, especially those with such a high potential for disastrous impacts, must be to seek the free, prior and informed consent of each and every First Nation whose Aboriginal Title and Rights will be impacted. If we must return to the courts to prove this once again, then that is what we will do”, said Grand Chief Edward John of the First Nations Summit political executive.
BC Assembly of First Nations’ Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould stated, “Though not surprising, it is extremely unfortunate and frustrating that the federal government has seen fit to approve Northern Gateway in the face of overwhelming public opposition including First Nations whose Aboriginal title and rights and other concerns have not been satisfactorily addressed. She added, “This is by no means the end of the conversation. Whether or not Northern Gateway is ultimately built is still very much in doubt and either way, will be a defining moment in Canada’s history and a litmus test for the direction we are heading. As a country, do we want to be an ‘energy superpower’ at any cost or are we ready to look towards a more balanced and diversified economy and becoming a global leader with respect to environmental stewardship, global warming and sustainable economic development?”
A statement was issued from over 30 BC First Nations unequivocally rejecting the Harper Government’s decision to approve the Enbridge Northern Gateway tanker and pipelines project and vowing that “First Nations will immediately go to court to vigorously pursue all lawful means to stop the Enbridge project.”
The statement continued, “We have governed our lands, in accordance to our Indigenous laws, since time immemorial. Our inherent Title and Rights and our legal authority over our respective territories have never been surrendered. Our inherent rights are human rights constitutionally enshrined, judicially recognized and embodied in international legal instruments including the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“This project, and the federal process to approve it, violated our rights and our laws. We are uniting to defend our lands and waters of our respective territories. Our rights and laws compel us to act.
“Enbridge’s Northern Gateway tanker and pipeline project exposes all communities from Alberta to the Pacific Coast to the undeniable risk of pipeline and supertanker oil spills. First Nations and the majority of British Columbians believe this project poses an unacceptable risk to the environment, the health, the safety and livelihoods of all peoples throughout this province. We will defend our territories whatever the costs may be.”
AFN Alberta Regional Chief Cameron Alexis, who oversees the AFN environment portfolio and whose region would be the starting point for the pipeline, said: “To echo the recommendations of the Prime Minister’s own representative, Douglas Eyford, in his November 2013 report, there is a need for an agreed upon process of consultation with First Nations. We are calling for a balanced approach agreeable by all parties at the table, including First Nations, and we need an appropriate cross-border process to be established amongst the provinces and First Nations with respect to projects that cross provincial lines. This effort is long overdue and now is the time to begin working on an approach that is respectful and inclusive of First Nations based on our rights and interests.”
AFN Quebec/Labrador Regional Chief Ghislain Picard, who is currently official AFN spokesperson, stated: “This entire situation demonstrates the clear need for a real and robust engagement process with First Nations on all proposed resource development activities. First Nations are not an ‘interest group.’ We have constitutionally protected rights and title and there is a legal obligation on the part of government to meaningfully consult and accommodate First Nations. The federal government should be working with First Nations now on appropriate approaches for genuine, meaningful consultation based on the principles of free, prior and informed consent as articulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and our rights, title and Treaties.”