Enbridge’s court argument was “out of touch with reality,” say First Nations leaders

Leaders emphasize First Nations opposition to Northern Gateway is “broad and deep.”

First Nations leaders across British Columbia reacted with anger upon learning that Enbridge has, in documents recently filed with the Federal Court of Appeal, claimed that “most impacted Aboriginal groups” support its Northern Gateway pipeline proposal.

First Nations leaders say Northern Gateway’s attempt to speak on behalf of First Nations is disrespectful, and that the company’s claim is out of touch with reality.

“It is completely inappropriate for Northern Gateway to purport to speak to a court on behalf of First Nations in such a self-serving manner,” said Grand Chief Ed John of the First Nations Summit. “This is another unfortunate example of Northern Gateway trying to charge ahead without regard for the clear rejection of the project by First Nations.”

In 2010, Enbridge Inc. proposed the construction of a 1200-kilometre pipeline from Bruderheim, A.B., to Kitimat, B.C. In June, 2014, the Canadian government accepted the project’s proposal, but imposed 209 conditions recommended by the National Energy Board.

The proposed project has received opposition from several First Nations groups from across the province.

The members of both the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and the First Nations Summit have passed resolutions in opposition to the project. The Yinka Dene Alliance, includes several First Nations in Northern B.C. – Nadleh Whut’en, Nak’azdli, Takla Lake, Saik’uz, Wet’suwet’en, and Tl’azt’en -, has joined forces to ban Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipelines from their territories.

Wet’suwet’en Chief Karen Ogen spoke on behalf of the Yinka Dene Alliance, saying that all First Nations currently in court against Northern Gateway have broad support.

“We stand with the representatives of more than 100 First Nations that fully support the members of the Yinka Dene Alliance and other First Nations in court challenging the project,” she said.

There are currently eighteen consolidated legal challenges to the federal approval of Northern Gateway. They are scheduled to be heard at the Federal Court of Appeal in Vancouver on October 1-2 and 5-8, 2015.

“Let’s be clear, First Nations have overwhelmingly rejected the Northern Gateway project,” stated Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs. “When Enbridge chooses to join us in the real world it will see there’s a wall of deeply committed First Nations that have said Northern Gateway is never going to happen.”

Lakes District News asked Enbridge to confirm if the company had in fact said they have the support of the majority of First Nations along the proposed route, and which First Nations they were referring to. Enbridge did not answer the questions directly; instead the company sent Lakes District News a statement.

“Northern Gateway is focused on our priority of building trust, engaging in respectful dialogue and building meaningful partnerships with First Nations and Metis communities,” said Ivan Giesbrecht, Communications Manager for Enbridge. “We believe First Nations and Metis communities should share in the ownership and benefits of Northern Gateway. As custodians of the land, First Nations and Metis communities have a direct role in the environmental protection of lands and waters along the Northern Gateway pipeline corridor and in marine operations. We are committed to hearing directly from them to listen and work together to address their concerns and to incorporate Aboriginal traditional knowledge.”