Vanderhoof – The Yinka Dene Alliance (YDA) is accusing the BC government of violating international law by issuing permits to Enbridge for drilling and tree removal in their territories, despite their opposition and the lack of consultation on the proposed pipeline.
The YDA, whose members’ territories make up 25 percent of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline route, made the accusations in a 15-page submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, who will be making an official visit to Canada from October 7 to 15, 2013.
Mr. Anaya, who was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, will be inquiring into the human rights situation of Indigenous peoples in Canada and will present his findings and recommendations to the Canadian government and the UN Human Rights Council.
“It’s a sad day in BC when Aboriginal leaders are forced to go to the United Nations to have their constitutionally-protected title and rights upheld,” says Chief Martin Louie, Nadleh Whut’en First Nation. “Premier Clark needs to make a decision: Either she supports the Northern Gateway pipeline, or she supports First Nations. It’s a decision that will strongly affect future resource development in Northern BC, including LNG.”
The YDA has repeatedly called for government-to-government meetings with Premier Clark about the proposed pipeline, calling her government’s position on Northern Gateway a litmus test for her new relationship with First Nations.
“Premier Clark told us she would arrange a meeting to discuss these issues,” says Chief Fred Sam, Nak’azdli First Nation. “We are still waiting for that meeting, and in the meantime her government has granted permits for Enbridge to drill and cut down trees in our territory. That decision shows a lack of respect for our people and our laws.”
Nak’azdli elder Lillian Sam expressed a frustration with BC that many people in her community are feeling: “One day I hope the government will listen to us, to our rights.”
The YDA spearheaded the Save the Fraser Declaration, which bans Northern Gateway and similar tar sands projects from the Fraser River watershed as a matter of Indigenous law and has been signed by representatives of more than 160 First Nations.
The YDA has begun work to enforce the ban on the ground, placing public notices in local newspapers and erecting No Trespassing signs in their territories to warn Enbridge and its contractors against trespassing, promising to prosecute violators based on Indigenous law.
In the face of the BC government’s disregard for the Indigenous law ban on Northern Gateway, the YDA has expanded its enforcement actions into the international arena with its submission to the UN Special Rapporteur.