As hearings continue over the Northern Gateway pipeline, the Canadian government is accusing its opponents of being beholden to foreign influence.
In early January, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said “foreign-funded” radicals were subsidizing and therefore influencing opposition to the pipeline, with which Enbridge Inc. plans to send oil sands crude through pristine indigenous territory in British Columbia and Alberta to the Pacific Coast. It has been disclosed that Tides Canada, an environmental group that has been outspoken about the potential ramifications of the $5 billion project, has a number of donors from the United States.
“These groups threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda,” wrote Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver in an open letter a few days later. “They use funding from foreign special interest groups to undermine Canada’s national economic interest.”
In general, Harper’s government is intensifying its watch over activists, including aboriginals, who are taking environmental stands. This scrutiny has provoked a backlash, with critics accusing Ottawa of being overly suspicious and even condescending.
“The minister’s allegations about radicals using foreign money to achieve an ideological agenda were sweeping, and we assume he was referring to the Dene Nation and other First Nations and aboriginal organizations participating in the review process,” said Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus in a statement responding to Oliver’s letter. “Our mandate is to preserve and protect our communities, our land, and our culture, and it is our democratic right to participate in hearings on a pipeline that will impact us.”
The hearings last through 2013, partly to accommodate the 4,000 people who want to speak, Reuters reported. Recently, about 50 people gathered at the University of Ottawa to learn more.
“I come from the Frog Clan, and I have more respect for my clan leaders than for any foreign government; 25 percent of this pipeline goes through unceded territory,” said Jackie Thomas, chief of Saik’uz First Nation, which is part of the Yinka Dene Alliance, according to The London Free Press. “I came to Ottawa because the prime minister and his government were calling my people radicals. You need to see the face of the radical, this is who he is talking about.”