February 2, 2012
NAK'AZDLI / FORT. ST. JAMES, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - Feb. 2, 2012) - NAK'AZDLI - Hundreds of members of the Yinka Dene Alliance protested the Enbridge hearings in Fort St. James today, delivering the message that they will not allow the Harper government to force the Enbridge Northern Gateway oil tanker and pipeline project through their lands and rivers.
The Yinka Dene Alliance is a group of six First Nations whose lands represent more than a quarter of the proposed Enbridge oil tanker and pipeline route.
"We learned last week that the Harper government lumps all 'Aboriginal groups' together as 'adversaries' in their secret memos," said Chief Fred Sam of Nak'azdli First Nation, referring to a federal tar sands strategy memo released last week in an access to information request. "That is a racist and insulting stereotype. We are the friends and neighbours of all the communities living in our territories. We want to work with government to protect our water - but instead Minister Joe Oliver is talking in public last week about plans to infringe First Nations rights. That's not the way to fix this government's broken relationship with First Nations."
The First Nations accuse the Harper government of pre-determining the outcome of the National Energy Board review, while also making veiled references to violating the constitutionally-protected Title and Rights of First Nations by alluding to the Supreme Court's "justification" test for infringements of rights.
"Harper has shown his hand," said Chief Jackie Thomas of Saik'uz First Nation. "He has made it clear he's planning to violate our constitutional rights and push the Enbridge pipeline through no matter what the result of the hearings. We're not going to let that happen. We'll use all the lawful means we have - under Canadian, International and Indigenous law - to stop the Enbridge pipelines from putting our communities and our neighbours at risk from oil spills."
The Yinka Dene are refusing to relinquish their rights as decision makers, a status the Enbridge hearings don't recognize.
"We always said to the government that they need our free, prior and informed consent for a project of this magnitude," said Chief Larry Nooski of Nadleh Whut'en. "We told the government that First Nations are entitled to a seat at the table. They have refused all along - they won't even have the conversation."
"We are sick and tired of this government's patronizing statements that First Nations should just take money from Enbridge and hope for some jobs. Last time I checked, you can't eat an oil spill," adds Chief Thomas. "Enbridge exaggerates the jobs numbers. We're not against jobs. We want jobs but also the right to determine what development occurs in our territories."
The Yinka Dene Alliance includes Nadleh Whut'en, Nak'azdli, Takla Lake, Saik'uz, Wet'suwet'en, and Tl'azt'en First Nations. While they are strongly opposed to the Enbridge pipeline, they have continued to attempt to engage the federal government since 2006 to negotiate a reasonable decision-making process that would ensure First Nations have a seat at the table, along with other levels of government, on large resource developments.
The Harper government has consistently refused even to discuss this proposal.
High resolution photos from this morning's protest are free for reprint by media:
Chief Jackie Thomas
Saik'uz First Nation