Residents voice opposition to pipeline

More than 100 people attended a meeting July 25 to hear Enbridge representatives give a presentation on the Northern Gateway project.

Enbridge representative Michele Perret listens to Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief Namoks make a presentation on July 25.

Enbridge representative Michele Perret listens to Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief Namoks make a presentation on July 25.

More than 100 people attended a Town of Smithers special meeting July 25 to hear Enbridge representatives give a presentation on the $5.5 billion Northern Gateway project.

But Enbridge representatives Janet Holder and Michele Perret brought no new information.

“We don’t have a formal presentation today,” Holder, Enbridge executive vice president of western access, said.

“We thought that it would be most useful, since the formal regulatory process has ended, to be available to answer questions.”

The National Energy Board’s joint review panel just finished listening to 18 months of oral testimony from B.C. and Alberta residents after receiving thousands of written submissions, both of which were reportedly 95 per cent in opposition to the proposed project.

Smithers’ Mayor Taylor Bachrach was one of more than 100 people living in the area who presented to the JRP during one of three days the panel was held here and didn’t hold back when speaking about the process.

“After hearing our residents articulate their passion for this place then have to read your lawyer, in your closing arguments, characterize the communities’ presentations as ‘misconceptions, misunderstandings, myths and disinformation’ I feel was a very telling and a very insulting statement about how your company feels about social license,” Bachrach said.

“It was incredibly disrespectful. I’ve never felt more angry than when I read that.”

“… is Enbridge willing to proceed with this project given the current level of opposition in this region?” Bachrach asked following his statement.

“I don’t think we can answer that question,” Holder said.

“There are a lot of yes’ as well as a lot of nos. We need to understand all parts of the puzzle before we can answer that. We’re not answering those questions today.”

Namoks, John Ridsdale, head of the Tsayu clan, was asked by the other Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs to speak for the collective.

“I’m not here to ask questions,” Namkos began, adding the Wet’suwet’en own, control and protect 22,000 square kilometres of unceded territory.

“We’ve never changed our stance and [Enbridge] treats us like an inconvenience. They treat us like we don’t have a voice. Our voice is stronger than the voice of Canada, stronger than the voice of B.C. and older than Canada. Our answer from day one was no and our answer today is no.”

Namoks then explained the root of the First Nations’ opposition to the pipeline.

“We look after the land for all of you,” he said.

“When we were grandchildren our grandparents promised they would take care of the land for us. Now it is us who make that promise to our grandchildren and all grandchildren. Respect our answer because we are protecting the land, air and water for all people.”

Holder and Perret responded by welcoming all First Nations’ to the negotiating table.

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen was in the gallery and asked two questions, one about whether Enbridge contends diluted bitumen floats in fresh water and the other about the politicization of the upcoming decision from the federal government.

“When you engaged with the federal government initially it was going to be the JRP that would make the final call, based on evidence and testimony,” Cullen said.

“That was changed midway through the process by the Prime Minister and now the decision will be made in Cabinet by him and his cabinet. The fact of the matter is it is [British Columbia] who take the risks not you. ”

The Joint Review Panel recommendations will be delivered to government before Christmas, Holder said.

The public will be able to view the document before the end of December, according to the Canadian Environment Assessment Agency.

“I know that I’m not alone in longing for the day when I hear the announcement that this project is no more,” Bachrach said before adjourning the meeting.