Enbridge, the same company that is at the moment spending at least $550 million to clean up a spill in Michigan, is trying to get right-of-way so it can build an oil pipeline across the Rockies to the Pacific.
But the Yinka Dene Alliance is having none of it.
On February 16 the coalition of five First Nations whose lands lie on about a quarter of the proposed route rejected a set of financial incentives from Enbridge, Reuters reported.
“Our Nations will not be turned. We won’t trade the safety of our rivers, lands and fish that are our lifeblood,” Chief Jackie Thomas of Saik’uz said in a February 16 statement, according to Canada’s Financial Post. “Enbridge knows it can’t guarantee there will be no oil spills into our rivers.”
The Nations and other groups were voicing objections to the Northern Gateway Pipeline Project, which would run a $5.5 billion twin pipeline carrying bituminous crude from oil sands in northern Alberta to the Pacific coast. About 60 people attended a hearing and question-and-answer session in St. Georges on February 16, the news blog Opinion250.com reported. They came to hear details on the 1,200-kilometer pipeline that would run from Bruderheim, Alberta, to Kitimat, British Columbia from Northern Gateway president John Carruthers.
Although Carruthers assured attendees that the project is undergoing rigorous federal review, will provide innumerable economic benefits to Canada and the province, and will include strict land- and marine-environment protections, the First Nations remained steadfastly against it.
“It’s simple. If you respect our protocols and our laws, then you must abide by our decision,” said Thomas, according to Opinion250.com. “If you refuse to respect our laws, we will use every means available to us under indigenous, Canadian, and international law to enforce our decision.”
Enbridge had offered the aboriginal communities preferential financing so they could buy the 10 percent equity stake and earn $280 million over the first 30 years of the project, the Vancouver Sun reported. Moreover the company promised to hire aboriginals for at least 15 percent of the contruction jobs and to procure as many goods and services from aboriginal businesses as possible.
Thomas called the equity offer an insult and said that First Nations would not trade the safety of their rivers for cash, Opinion250.com reported. Carrier Sekani Tribal Council vice chief Terry Teegee also chimed in, reminding everyone that First Nations have opposed the route for more than five years now. He wondered at what point Enbridge will give up on the project.
Enbridge did not help its case with a July 2010 oil spill that let loose more than 20,000 barrels of oil from a leaky pipeline into a Michigan river system in a mess that the company estimates will cost at least $550 million to clean up.
This pipeline too, would go through the Fraser River watershed, Thomas pointed out, with about a quarter of it crossing the tribes’ traditional land.
Chief Larry Nooski of Nadleh Whut’en said more than 80 First Nations in B.C. Are “totally opposed” to the proposed pipeline to move oil sands crude to the West Coast.
“Their project is against our laws. It will hurt us and hurt First Nations who live near the nightmare of the tar sands,” he said. “This project is not going to happen and we’ll use all the means we have under our laws to fight it.”