US Oil Spill Swells BC First Nations Opposition to Tar Sands Pipeline and Tankers

CALGARY, AB – Enbridge‘s pipeline and tanker project to British Columbia’s coast isn’t going to happen. BC First Nations made this message very clear to Enbridge Inc’s executives and shareholders on May 5th at the Metropolitan Conference Center in downtown Calgary.

“We’re not going to risk oil spills into our rivers,” said Terry Teegee, Vice Tribal Chief of the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council. “And the Aboriginal Title of our member Nations means that the decision is ours to make. We’re hear to tell Enbridge, again, that the decision is No.”

Most of British Columbia’s lands and waters have never been subject to Treaties between First Nations and Canada, such as those present in Alberta. The Delgamuukw/Gisdaywa decision and numerous supporting court cases gives many BC First Nations unique influence over the allocation of disputed land and resources, and the right to determine what are acceptable land use and resource development projects

“Oil spills on the land and waters are inevitable – it’s just a matter of time,” stated Namoks (John Ridsdale), a Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief from northwest BC. “All the state-of-the-art technology claimed by oil companies can never eliminate human error. We will oppose this pipeline project to protect our lands, and our waters.”

Delegates opposing the pipeline project secured proxy passes to attend the Enbridge AGM, which enabled questioning of Enbridge’s CEO Patrick Daniel.

On March 23rd, BC’s Coastal First Nations alliance, representing all nine Nations affected by Enbridge’s proposed tanker routes, publicly declared an outright ban on oil tankers through their territories. In a press release issued that day, Coastal First Nations Director Gerald Amos said “This bountiful and globally significant coastline cannot bear an oil spill. This is where Enbridge hits a wall.”

Dogwood Initiative and Forest Ethics, two environmental organizations also working to stop the Enbridge pipeline and tankers, joined the First Nations delegation in Calgary.

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Contact:

Terry Teegee – Vice Tribal Chief Carrier Sekani Tribal Council (250) 640-3256

John Ridsdale – Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief (250) 643-0071

Additional Background:

Proposed Pipeline Route through Wet’suwet’en Nation Territory:

wet-territory.jpg

Proposed Pipeline Route through territory of Carrier Sekani Member Nations:

Piipeline through Carrier Sekani Member Nations.jpg

Unceded Territory – Much of British Columbia is the un-ceded territory of First Nations, who have never signed treaties with the Crown. The interplay of Aboriginal Rights and Title with the Crown’s claim to title, and authority over resource decision making, continues to create substantial uncertainty with respect to resource projects such as Enbridge’s proposed pipeline.

Opposition to Federal Review Process – The government of Canada has announced a Joint Review Panel (JRP) agreement with respect to the Northern Gateway project. However, as the agreement fails to properly address Aboriginal Title and Rights issues, the JRP process lacks legitimacy. Other BC Nations and entities have also publicly communicated that the JRP agreement is an infringement of Aboriginal Rights, including the Nadleh Whut’en, and Carrier Sekani Tribal Council. As such, Enbridge’s claims that the federal process will deal with the growing controversy are misinformed.

First Nations Opposition to the Project – In June 2009 the Wet’suwet’en hosted other Nations from the tar sands to BC’s coast in an information sharing and strategy session that concluded in the signing of a declaration to stop any plans to transport oil from the oilsands to the Pacific coast. Signing Nations included Alberta’s Mikisew Cree First Nation and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, the Wet’suwet’en, Nadleh Whut’en, Haisla, Gitga’at, Gitxaala and Haida Nation. Video highlights from this gathering can be viewed here [www.dogwoodinitiative.org/blog/closingranks]. In total, 28 individual First Nations have publicly expressed opposition to Enbridge’s project. None have publicly announced support for the project.

Coastal First Nations Declaration – On March 23rd 2010, BC’s Coastal First Nations alliance, representing all nine Nations affected by the proposed oil tankers, announced that “in upholding our ancestral laws, rights, and responsibilities, we declare that oil tankers carrying crude oil from the Alberta tar sands will not be allowed to transit our lands and waters.” Enbridge has yet to acknowledge this Declaration. A legal comment on the significance of the Declaration can be viewed here: http://wcel.org/resources/publication/legal-comment-coastal-first-nations-no-tankers-declaration

Opposition Shared By BC Residents – Polling continues to show that close to three quarters of BC residents support a legislated oil tanker ban on BC’s north Pacific coast (Synovate, 2008); such a ban would preclude any northern oil pipeline and tanker proposal. More than 150 individual First Nations, organizations, businesses, and individuals signed onto a full page ad in the Globe and Mail denouncing the project. The ad can be seen here: http://pipeupagainstenbridge.ca/

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