Canada Approves Enbridge Pipeline Through B.C., First Nations Will Sue
Hundreds of First Nations plan to take the Canadian government to court over its approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline from the Alberta oil sands through British Columbia to the Pacific Ocean.
“The First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC), which is composed of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, First Nations Summit and Union of BC Indian Chiefs, is completely disgusted at this decision,” said the organizations in a joint statement on June 17 after the governmental approval—conditional upon Enbridge Inc. meeting 209 conditions set forth by Canada’s energy board.
“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,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of B.C. 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.”
Back in December 2013 a three-member environmental panel recommended approval of the $7.5 billion, 730-mile long pipeline provided Enbridge met 209 conditions.
The reasoning was eerily similar to the U.S. Department of State’s analysis of the equally controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which found that it would not appreciably increase the oil sands’ carbon footprint, and therefore have but a negligible effect on climate change.
Canada is still insisting on the 209 conditions being met, but the provisional approval allows the government to issue a few permits. In addition the company also must apply for regulatory permits and authorizations from federal and provincial governments, as well as consult more deeply with indigenous communities, said Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford in a statement.
“Moving forward, the proponent must demonstrate to the independent regulator, the National Energy Board, how it will meet the 209 conditions,” Natural Resources Minister Rickford said. “The proponent clearly has more work to do in order to fulfill the public commitment it has made to engage with aboriginal groups and local communities along the route.”
But First Nations were having none of it. From symbolic blockades to court cases, the Indigenous Peoples living in British Columbia vowed to stop the pipeline at any cost.
“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,” said Grand Chief Edward John of the First Nations Summit political executive in a statement. “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.”
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