As hearings continue on the Northern Gateway pipeline that would bring oil to the Pacific coast from the Alberta oil sands, a lack of trust hangs heavy in the air, fueling resistance to the project. What happens in the case of an oil spill?
First Nations opposed to Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway pipeline are departing April 30 on a cross-country journey aboard a “Freedom Train,” starting in Jasper, Alberta, and ending in Toronto, where they’ll attend the annual meeting of the oil giant on May 9.
The Yinka Dene Alliance is leading the trip “aimed at protecting their rights and their freedom from the threat of devastating oil spills,” the 30-nation alliance said in a statement.
“Our journey on this Freedom Train is to build on the support from the people of Canada for the protection of our traditional lands. We will stand firm against all industries like Enbridge that are planning to destroy the environment and the future of all peoples,” said Chief Martin Louie of Nadleh Whut’en First Nation, a member of the Yinka Dene Alliance, in the statement. “We need a healthy environment to ensure a healthy future for our children.”
At least 40 First Nations people from 10 Nations will be traveling, and First Nations groups in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario are organizing support rallies all along the route. The riders, ranging in age from 16 to 67, will start out with ceremonies in Nadleh Whut’en and Jasper, and others will join along the route. There will be feasts, ceremonies, rallies and events in Edmonton, Saskatoon and Winnipeg en route to Toronto, the statement said. Once in Toronto they will join two days of such events as a concert, a rally and a march, and then the shareholders meeting.
“We’re traveling across Canada to tell Enbridge that they will not be permitted to build their pipelines through our lands, period,” said Chief Jackie Thomas of Saik’uz First Nation. “The fight against Enbridge is a fight for our freedom to govern ourselves and to choose our own future. We will not accept the government imposing a decision on us and forcing this pipeline through our lands.”
Enbridge wants to construct a 727-mile-long dual pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to the Pacific Coast. With the Keystone XL pipeline decision postponed indefinitely in the U.S., Prime Minister Stephen Harper is keener than ever to strike oil deals with China and elsewhere in Asia. At least 130 First Nations oppose the project, which would wind through pristine aboriginal territory for much of its route. The Yinka Dene Alliance promises that this year’s events will be the largest ever.
“We are blown away by the support we have from First Nations and other people right across Canada,” said Dolly Abraham of Takla Lake First Nation, British Columbia in the Yinka Dene statement. “We have put out a call across the country for solidarity as we make this huge effort, and we’re grateful for the many backers we have, all the way through from west to east. People are standing up with us against this pipeline threat because they know it’s not just us who are going to be impacted—if these rivers and coastlines are destroyed for the benefit of the tar sands, everybody suffers.”