May 8, 2013
With the Yinka Dene peoples in the lead, First Nations voices of opposition are joined with those of oilsands workers, local governments, and citizens of every walk of life — from economists to environmentalists — across the country. We all know that this project will not be completed.
We, the Yinka Dene peoples, are standing up to protect the land for our children and the children of everyone in British Columbia. We have repeatedly said that your company and the provincial and federal governments are not prepared for the devastating effects of an oil spill on our lands and waters if the Northern Gateway project were to be built. During March and April, in addition to the high-profile spill in Mayflower, Ark., there have been at least nine other spills from ruptured oil and gas pipelines in North America, three of them in Canada. Contaminated water from tarsands processing was also discharged into the Athabasca River, which supplies the drinking water of our relations, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.
Our lands are precious to us. We will rely on our constitutionally protected title and rights and on our own laws to protect our lands from desecration. That means that the legal impediments you face in getting this project approved are potentially insurmountable. More than 160 First Nations have signed the Save the Fraser Declaration and are standing together with us to say no to the Northern Gateway project, based on our indigenous laws. We are the wall through which the Northern Gateway pipeline will not pass.
The people of British Columbia and Canada have stood shoulder to shoulder with us to support us in our struggle. More than 100,000 people across Canada have signed petitions that recognize our decision to ban this project from our territories. B.C. mayors have stood on stage with us to condemn the Enbridge project as one that puts too much of our common future at risk. The Union of B.C. Municipalities has called on the provincial government to use everything within its powers to prevent the transport of bitumen through our lands and waters.
We have met with provincial and federal politicians who oppose this project, sharing our concerns about the peril that exporting more bitumen presents for Canada’s economy, local ecosystems, our greenhouse gas emissions targets, and the health of communities stretching from Alberta’s oilsands to B.C.’s coast and beyond. The fate of pipelines to the West Coast has become a defining issue in the upcoming B.C. election.
Your project has been called a “dead pipeline walking” by industry analysts. Business journals across this continent have described the bungling way in which you have dealt with First Nations and the lack of “social license” for this project. They have already concluded that, regardless of the recommendation made by the joint review panel or the decision of federal cabinet, this project will not see the light of day.
It’s time for Enbridge as a corporation to have a frank conversation with its shareholders: the Northern Gateway pipeline is a project without a future. Now is the time to come up with an exit strategy, one that works for First Nations, the people of B.C. and your shareholders. Rest assured that when you make the announcement that you have decided not to proceed, we will be the first to congratulate you on your sound judgment and business acumen. We will be happy to acknowledge that you have made the right choice, the responsible choice.
And until then, we and our supporters will continue to say what we have said since this project was announced. The Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline will not be built across our lands or through our waters.
Snachailya, Mussi cho’ (Thank you very much, you have done us a great favour.)
Chiefs of the Yinka Dene Alliance: Chief Martin Louie, Nadleh Whut’en First Nation; Chief Fred Sam, Nakazdli First Nation; Chief Dolly Abraham, Takla Lake First Nation; Chief Stanley Thomas, Saik’uz First Nation; Chief Karen Ogen, Wet’suwet’en First Nation; Chief Ralph Pierre, Tl’azt’en First Nation. The Yinka Dene Alliance includes Nadleh Whut’en, Nak’azdli, Takla Lake, Saik’uz, Wet’suwet’en and Tl’azt’en First Nations in northern B.C. that have banned the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline from their territories as a matter of indigenous law.