Northern Gateway Opposition Building Steam

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Edmonton Journal

Northern Gateway Opposition Building Steam

Canadian First Nations groups have mounted a legal challenge against the Northern Gateway pipeline. (Photo: Chris Yakimov/cc/flickr)

On the campaign trail leading up to the May 5 Alberta election, Rachel Notley acknowledged loud and clear that there is a solid wall of opposition facing the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project in B.C.

The new premier’s statements and the speed that Tim Hortons recently dropped its Enbridge ads in face of thousands of angry Canadians illustrates the reality that one year after the federal government approved the project, the opposition is not only strong and committed, but also growing. Rather than succeeding in clearing the way for Enbridge, the federal government sparked a chain of events that make it very unlikely the project will ever be built.

Immediately following the federal approval, First Nations, environmental groups and the 300,000-strong Unifor went to court to challenge the approval and review process. Enbridge now faces a total of 18 court proceedings and these cases are shining light on the questionable legal position on which the federal government stands.

In court along with other nations are the Haida. The Supreme Court of Canada has affirmed the Haida’s strong case of aboriginal title and rights and recently the Federal Court stated that Canada’s unilateral decision opening a fishery in the face of Haida concerns compromised the court-mandated reconciliation process, which the Haida have successfully developed for over a quarter of a century with both the federal and provincial governments.

As reconciliation moves forward and projects such as Enbridge are proposed and considered, the strength of the Haida case cannot be ignored. Compounding that are other First Nations litigation.

These legal cases are the best way to stop this pipeline, and that is why a community group in Terrace, B.C., held a spaghetti dinner a year ago, raised $2,000 in support, then called on the rest of the provinces and Canada to step up.

Sierra Club BC and RAVEN Trust launched the Pull Together initiative as a way for British Columbians and the rest of the country to give financial and moral support to the nations that are in court to stop Enbridge.

Pull Together has now raised more than $500,000 through individual donations, community events, and local businesses donating their profit margin. More than 100 businesses are involved. Many farmers are donating their hard-earned proceeds to Pull Together throughout the summer in the knowledge that we are all dependent on the land, water and air. Denman Island Chocolate has produced a Pull Together chocolate bar, with proceeds going to support the legal challenges.

These businesses understand the proposed pipeline is not good for the economy. Enbridge would put at risk tens of thousands of jobs and ways of living that are inextricably bound to the land and sea.

Local businesses are a different story; they offer hope for a robust economic future in our communities, one that is grounded in working with First Nations and at the same time respectful of our differences.

Together, we recently marked the one-year anniversary of the federal decision to approve the project with the Week to End Enbridge, June 13-21. This wave of fundraising events alone raised $100,000 for the First Nations legal challenges aimed at overturning the federal government’s decision.

In addition to local business involvement, grassroots fundraising events are taking place across B.C., from Prince George to Terrace, Fort St. James to Kelowna, Haida Gwaii to Golden, and from the coast to the Kootenays.

Corporations such as Enbridge aren’t used to taking no for an answer. They aren’t backing down, but neither are we. Since last June, the resolve of British Columbians to protect the West Coast from tankers carrying diluted bitumen has only strengthened. And the need for reconciliation of Canada’s troubled history with First Nations is ever clearer.

With the Haida, Gitga’at, Gitxaala, Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xai-xais, Nak’azdli, and Nadleh Whut’en pulling together in court, and British Columbians lining up to support them, this project faces an opposition that will go to the wall time and again.

Caitlyn Vernon

Caitlyn Vernon is the Campaigns Director for Sierra Club BC.

Peter Lantin (kil tlaats'gaa)

kil tlaats 'gaa Peter Lantin is president of Haida Nation.

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