About 500 people attended a rally in support of eight First Nations, four environmental groups and one labour group challenging the Federal Government’s approval of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline.
The crowd gathered at the corner of Howe and Georgia Street in Vancouver on Thursday October 1, the first day of a six-day hearing in the Federal Court of Appeal.
“The struggle involves all the nations and everything from direct action to court cases to political action,” said Bob Ages during the rally.
Ages is a member of the Council of Canadians and the Unist’ot’en Solidarity Brigade, which is “physically blocking pipeline crews” working on Chevron’s Pacific Trails Pipeline (PTP), which crosses Wet’suwet’en traditional territory in Northern BC.
“We have to stop all the pipelines, whether they’re going through the north or coming down here” and “transition to a green economy,” Ages said.
According to court documents these are the parties involved in the case:
The eight First Nations in court are: Gitxaala, Gitga’at, Haisla, Haida, Kitasoo Xai’xais, Heiltsuk, Nadleh Whut’en and Nak’azdli Whut’en.
Environmental groups include: ForestEthics Advocacy Association, Living Oceans Society, Raincoast Conservation Foundation and BC Nature.
Interveners are: The Attorney General of British Columbia, Amnesty International and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
Responding to the challenges are: Attorney General of Canada, Minister of the Environment, Northern Gateway Pipelines and the National Energy Board.
Heiltsuk Tribal Council (HTC) Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett addressed the crowd, saying the Heiltsuk Nation is, “here to tell the courts that we have Aboriginal rights and title to Heiltsuk lands and Heiltsuk waterways and we are the proper titleholders.”
“Everything that we do as Heiltsuk people is connected to the land and to the sea. It provides for our culture, our spiritual well-being, our economic well-being.”
Northern Gateway would bring bitumen from Alberta to a terminal in Kitimat, where it would be loaded onto tankers. Attached to the project are 209 conditions related to its construction and operation.
The Federal Government made its decision to approve the $7 billion project in June, 2014. The BC provincial government, which would be responsible for issuing permits related to the project, has said the pipeline must meet its five conditions to proceed. The main concern raised by critics of the project is the risk it poses for a potential oil spill.
“We cannot bear that risk of having those super tankers going through our waterways and putting our lives and our culture and our way of life at any risk,” Slett said.
Considering Canada is weeks away from an election, people were openly expressing their views on the Federal Government, which approved the Northern Gateway project.
“It’s important now to vote the Harper government out and get in a government that is looking at the economy as part of the environment,” said Sheri Plummer, representing Vancouver-Island based group, Communities to Protect our Coast.
Chiefs from across Canada attended the rally to show their support. News Friends talked to a few of them here:
Calls to Enbridge from News Friends were not returned by deadline but CBC News quoted a press release from the company’s spokesman Ivan Giesbrecht, who said, "Our ongoing priority is to continue to build trust, engage in respectful dialogues and build meaningful partnerships with First Nations and Métis communities.”
"Despite this litigation, we remain committed to working collaboratively with the applicant First Nations and would be very pleased to develop mutually beneficial solutions with them."