Natives vow ‘whatever it takes' to stop projects
Mark Hume and Justine Hunter
Globe and Mail Update Published on Tuesday, Mar. 23, 2010 9:56PM EDT Last
updated on Wednesday, Mar. 24, 2010 2:37AM EDT
Major resource projects in British Columbia suffered a double blow Tuesday
as one native band used the courts to block a proposed coal mine, while
other bands formed a broad coalition to oppose a multibillion-dollar
pipeline and the oil-tanker traffic it would generate.
The developments signalled a change in the attitude of native leaders who
say they are prepared to do “whatever it takes” to stop projects they feel
threaten their communities.
Gerald Amos, director of the Coastal First Nations, said natives have always
understood the importance of protecting the environment, but with so many
big resource projects proposed in B.C., it's time to take a harder stand.
“Perhaps we haven't been strong enough … from here on out… we are going to
be firm,” said Mr. Amos, who lives in Kitimat, near the terminus of
Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline.
Mr. Amos said legal challenges and political pressure will be used to stop
the pipeline, but “if it goes ahead and tankers come through our waters, we
are preparing to put boats right across the channel and stop them … Whatever
it takes. Our position right now is that this project is not going to
A coalition of nine coastal bands issued a declaration which states that
“oil tankers carrying crude oil from the Alberta Tar Sands will not be
allowed to transit our lands and waters.”
About 28 bands, an equal number of environmental groups, 45 businesses and
35 prominent individuals also showed support by signing a full page ad,
which ran in The Globe and Mail yesterday, opposing the Enbridge project.
Vicky Husband, a leading conservationist in B.C., said environmental groups
from around the world are prepared to support the native protest.
Art Sterritt, executive director of the Coastal First Nations, said it is an
unprecedented show of united strength. “We all believe the Enbridge Gateway
project is a threat to our way of culture and our way of life,” he said.
In Victoria, Premier Gordon Campbell said the project will not go ahead if
it is harmful to the environment – but he stressed the jobs and other
benefits it could bring to people in the north.
“I think we should always look for ways to put people back to work in
British Columbia. Certainly across the north, many, many people have said
their major concern … is their jobs and investment in the future of their
families. And the second thing we have always been clear about is that
economic development projects in this province always take place within the
context of a full, thorough, rigid, scientifically sound environmental
review,” Mr. Campbell said.
The proposed pipeline, which would carry 525,000 barrels of petroleum a day
from Alberta to the B.C. coast, is subject to hearings by the National
A company official could not be reached for immediate comment, but Enbridge
has said the future of the pipeline depends on support from northern
Grand Chief Edward John, an executive member of the First Nations Summit,
said a number of court rulings in recent years have underscored the legal
requirement for native bands to be consulted before projects go ahead.
The Supreme Court of B.C. emphasized just that point in a ruling this week,
in which the B.C. government was chastised for failing to have meaningful
consultation with the West Moberly band, near Fort St. John, in central B.C.
The West Moberly band opposed a First Coal Corporation mine on the grounds
it would destroy the Burnt Pine caribou herd, and impair a traditional right
B.C. government officials approved the sample extraction of 50,000 tons of
coal after meeting with the band, but without taking any steps to protect
the endangered herd.
Justice Paul Williamson said First Coal had met its obligations to consult
with the band, but “the Crown's failure to put in place an active plan for
the protection and rehabilitation of the Burnt Pine herd is a failure to
The court ruled mining work being undertaken by First Coal must be halted
until the province has met its obligation to consult with the band and come
up with a plan to protect the endangered herd of caribou.
“I'm elated,” said West Moberly Chief Roland Willson. “Out intent wasn't to
stop the project, it was to protect the caribou. But the outcome is the mine
is stopped because that's an incompatible use of the land.”
Coastal First Nations declare opposition to oil pipeline
Vancouver, BC — The Canadian Press Published on Tuesday, Mar. 23, 2010
1:21PM EDT Last updated on Tuesday, Mar. 23, 2010 10:00PM EDT
Dozens of orcas, hundreds of thousands of seabirds and millions of salmon
were wiped out when the Exxon Valdez oil tanker spilled 40 millions litres
of crude oil into Alaskan waters.
Twenty-one years later, a coalition of British Columbia First Nations says
such a disaster can never be allowed to happen again, and declared it will
do whatever it takes to stop a proposed pipeline from the Alberta tar sands
to the B.C. coast.
More than 150 First Nations, businesses, environmental organizations and
prominent Canadians have signed on to the campaign to stop the pipeline
proposed by Calgary-based Enbridge Inc.
They say the risk of an oil spill is just too great.
“We all believe the Enbridge Gateway pipeline project is a threat to the
very existence of our culture and our way of life,” Art Sterritt, executive
director of the Coastal First Nations, told reporters Tuesday.
“There are some who believe the Enbridge project is a done deal. It isn’t.
It is over.”
The Enbridge Northern Gateway Project would see two 1,170-kilometre
pipelines stretching from the tar sands near Edmonton to the northern B.C.
coast town of Kitimat.
Crude would flow, crossing more than 1,000 streams and rivers, mountain
ranges, avalanche-prone terrain and rainforest ecosystems before being
loaded onto upwards of 150 tankers annually for export.
The majority of the landscape to be covered is traditional B.C. First
“It would be both unwise and irresponsible for Enbridge to ignore us or our
constitutionally protected rights and title in British Columbia,” Mr.
The Coastal First Nations, who are heading the declaration, are an alliance
of communities on B.C.’s north and central coast, including the islands of
An Enbridge spokesperson did not return a call for comment.
But the company has touted the benefits of the project, saying more than
4,000 construction jobs and thousands more indirect jobs would be created,
while generating hundreds of millions in tax revenue for both provinces.
The company has said ships have safely carried petrochemicals out of the
Kitimat port for 25 years.
“We will continue this tradition of safe passage in and out of Kitimat and
will in fact provide safety improvements that will benefit shipping on the
coast,” says the Enbridge website.
But Mr. Sterritt said after five years of scientific research and community
consultations, the groups that have signed onto the campaign believe “no
good” can come from the project.
It could jeopardize the land, water, people and wildlife for generations to
come, say those opposed.
“We don’t ... make this declaration blindly or lightly, we make it from an
informed position,” said Gerald Amos, a director of Coastal First Nations.
He said a blockade on the water is possible if the project goes ahead.
Along with 28 B.C. First Nations, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and some
aboriginal groups from Alberta, environmental groups including the David
Suzuki Foundation and the Pembina Institute also signed on to the campaign.
Author Margaret Atwood, Vancouver Canuck Willie Mitchell and 10 Canadian
Olympians, including Kristina Groves, are also on board,.
Environmentalist Vicky Husband said she believes two additional pipelines
would allow an increase in production in the Alberta tar sands of up to 30
“If we actually believe in taking steps to deal with climate change, the tar
sands needs to be phased out,” she said. “Otherwise, Canada will be a major
source of greenhouse gas emissions, ongoing.”
Premier Gordon Campbell said the project will not proceed if it’s deemed too
dangerous for the environment.
He said the government wants to build an economic future for B.C. First
Nations, “in a way that meets all of our environmental standards.”
The New Democrats called on the government to drop the project but B.C.
Energy Minister Blair Lekstrom said B.C. residents want more money for
health care, social programs and roads.
“All of that comes from our resource industry – and we have to find that
balance,” he told a Vancouver radio station.