First Nations and the Enbridge Northern Gateway

Enbridge was once again in the news on a few occasions this week, although this time it was with a mix of good and bad news.

Enbridge was once again in the news on a few occasions this week, although this time it was with a mix of good and bad news for the company when it comes to the First Nations front.

On December 1 the Coastal First Nations – a group that includes the Haisla in Kitamaat, the Haida, Metlakatla, Hartley Bay and others – reinforced their opposition to the project and said they would not support it in any way, shape or form. There were 60 Aboriginal groups involved in the statement, sending a message about the steps they will take to protect their traditional territory.

The very next day, coincidentally or not, Enbridge announced the signing of a deal with the Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs in the Hazelton area that will give the nation part ownership in the pipeline and is “expected to deliver at least $7 million in net profit to the Gitxsan people”. That would seem like a pretty strong way of showing that not all First Nations are opposed to the project, but the feedback we got back on and from other Gitxsan people was very passionately in disagreement with the move.

Of course the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project will move forward with the Joint Review Panel holding hearings, but there seems to be a somewhat clear line in the sand drawn as it relates to this project. The Conservative Government, which holds a majority in the House of Commons and can pretty much do whatever it wants, has made no bones about the fact that it wants the project to move forward. The majority of northwest First Nations, whose traditional territory the line will cross or who would be affected in the case of anything happening, have clearly stated they don’t want to see it happen. It seems that this debate around oil export could come down to a question of “adequate consultation” Given the strong political support and the strong grass roots opposition, this one could be a precedent setter.

In the background of all this, Kinder Morgan got the green light from the National Energy Board to sign new 10-year contracts to its Westridge tanker terminal – a move that could bring more tankers to Vancouver and was met with concerns from eight major Lower Mainland mayors with due to the lack of consultation…