First Nations reject government's hand over of responsibilities for pipeline to corporate interests

AFN press release

Assembly of First Nations Responds to Federal Government's Approval of Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Project

OTTAWA, June 17, 2014 /CNW/ - The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Executive Committee responded to the decision today by the federal government to approve the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project subject to the conditions set out in the December 2013 federal Joint Review Panel report.

AFN British Columbia Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould stated: "First Nations leadership in B.C. overwhelmingly oppose the Conservative government's irresponsible decision to approve Northern Gateway and will pursue all lawful means to ensure it does not get built.  This already includes judicial reviews before the courts in respect of the Joint Review Panel's faulty process.  For First Nations, the responsible choice has always been relatively easy.  We are not opposed to resource development but not at any cost.  First Nations and the majority of British Columbians believe this project poses an unacceptable risk to the environment, the health, the safety and livelihoods of all peoples throughout this province because of the undeniable possibility of pipeline and supertanker heavy oil spills.  Also, it is unconscionable that the government would, in its approval, offload its legal responsibility to consult and accommodate with Aboriginal peoples to Enbridge."

AFN Alberta Regional Chief Cameron Alexis, who oversees the AFN environment portfolio and whose region would be the starting point for the pipeline, said: "To echo the recommendations of the Prime Minister's own representative, Douglas Eyford, in his November 2013 report, there is a need for an agreed upon process of consultation with First Nations.  We are calling for a balanced approach agreeable by all parties at the table, including First Nations, and we need an appropriate cross-border process to be established amongst the provinces and First Nations with respect to projects that cross provincial lines.  This effort is long overdue and now is the time to begin working on an approach that is respectful and inclusive of First Nations based on our rights and interests."

AFN Quebec/Labrador Regional Chief Ghislain Picard, who is currently official AFN spokesperson, stated: "This entire situation demonstrates the clear need for a real and robust engagement process with First Nations on all proposed resource development activities.  First Nations are not an 'interest group.'  We have constitutionally protected rights and title and there is a legal obligation on the part of government to meaningfully consult and accommodate First Nations.  The federal government should be working with First Nations now on appropriate approaches for genuine, meaningful consultation based on the principles of free, prior and informed consent as articulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and our rights, title and Treaties."

On December 18, 2013, a federal Joint Review Panel report set out 209 conditions that must be met if the project was approved.  The proposed 1,177 kilometre pipeline would carry 525,000 barrels of oil a day from northern Alberta to the Pacific Coast, passing through the lands and traditional territories of many First Nations.

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.  Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Comms, @AFN_Updates.

SOURCE Assembly of First Nations

For further information: Alain Garon, AFN Bilingual Communications Officer, 613-241-6789, ext 382, 613-292-0857,; Jenna Young, AFN Communications Officer, 613-241-6789, ext 401, 613-314-8157,



First Nations leaders urge natives and non-natives to unite against Northern Gateway


CALVERT ISLAND, B.C. - The Globe and Mail - Published Jun. 17 2014

The federal government's decision to go ahead with the Northern Gateway pipeline brought chiefs and elders to tears when news reached them at a scientific conference on ocean health in the Great Bear Rainforest.

Shaking with anger, their voices trembling with emotion, native leaders brought the conference to a standstill Tuesday as they spoke of their dismay over the decision - and of their commitment to fight to stop the project from ever getting built.

"Pretty shocking ... it's a tough, tough piece of news," said Wigvilhba Wakas, a hereditary chief of the Heiltsuk Nation.

"We see this all over the world, where corporate interests are overriding the interests of the people," said Guujaaw, past president of the Council of Haida Nation and one of the top political leaders among native people in B.C.

"It's way out of control and it's probably going to take decisions like this for people to stand up [together]. I think this is a test of humanity now to stand up and fight back," he said.

Wickaninish, former president of the Nuu-Chah-nulth Tribal Coucil, said the federal government had made "an ominous decision" that he hoped would unite native and non-native people in a common cause, as the battle over Clayoquot Sound did in his traditional territory on Vancouver Island, where mass arrests stopped logging near Tofino.

"This is not just an Indian fight ... it's all the people," he said.

Wahmeesh, vice-President of the Nuu-Chah-nulth, said he felt an emotional blow when he heard the decision, which spread around the conference as participants read the news bulletins on their smartphones.

"My heart kind of sank, like I'd lost somebody. Like a death in the family," he said.

Wahmeesh said he was going to return to the Nuu-Chah-nulth, a large collection of 14 tribes on the west coast of Vancouver Island, for an urgent meeting on the pipeline project. And he promised that the chiefs would be united in pledging support to those tribes along the pipeline route across Northern B.C.

"This is probably the biggest decision this government will ever make in my lifetime [affecting First Nations]," he said, struggling to find a way to describe the magnitude of the decision.

Wahmeesh echoed those who urged a coalition between native and non-native people to fight the pipeline.

"We'll stand together as Canadians," he said.

Margaret Edgars, an elder from the Haida Nation, was in tears as she spoke to the gathering of scientists and native leaders from Alaska, B.C., Washington, Oregon and California who had gathered for a conference to discuss the resurgence of sea otters on the West Coast.

"I was hurt a bit when I heard it," she said of the news of Ottawa's support for the project. "But with everyone speaking out about it here I'm feeling a little stronger. ... I think we've had enough of what they're doing. It's time to stand together united. ... We have to continue with the fight."

After Alaskan delegates had reminded the gathering of the long, enduring impacts of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Ms. Edgars said tankers pose too great a risk to coastal B.C.