Following the federal government’s approval of Enbridge Northern Gateway, the Heiltsuk and Kitasoo-Xaixais Nations are vowing to fight in the court, and if necessary, on the land, to protect their coastal territories and way of life.
“Our people have been clear since this pipeline was proposed,” said Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett. “We will not allow this to threaten our waters. We stand with our relatives up and down the coast in rejecting this frightful project.”
The two central coast First Nations groups have jointly applied for the right to bring a judicial review of the federal government’s decision. “This issue has catalyzed our peoples,” said Kitasoo-Xaixais Tribal Councillor Douglas Neasloss. “Let this be a signal that we intend to fight this project in a spirit of unified strength.”
“The Joint Review Panel’s recommendations and the federal government’s ultimate decision did not come as a surprise,” said Councillor Neasloss, “but our coastal peoples are disappointed by the blatant disregard shown to us throughout this process.”
“We assert that the federal government has failed in its duty to consult honourably with First Nations,” added Chief Slett, “and they have made their decision based on flawed and uninformed recommendations from the Joint Review Panel. This will not stand.”
While the chiefs hope this issue can be resolved amicably in the courts, they vow to uphold their Nations’ categorical rejection of the Northern Gateway proposal, as well as the Coastal First Nations declaration banning oil tankers in the Great Bear Sea. According to Councillor Neasloss, “Our Nations are prepared to fight this until the end. We owe that much to our future generations.”
This announcement comes in the midst of Tribal Journeys 2014, a coastal canoe gathering with roots dating back to an inaugural coming together of canoe families in Bella Bella in 1993. 21 years after the original event, Heiltsuk Nation is host to upward of 60 canoes and 2,500 individual guests representing Nations from across the Pacific Coast, Hawaii, and the South Pacific.
“We are honoured to reaffirm our commitment to protecting this coast with all of our Pacific relatives bearing witness,” said Chief Slett. “Our water is our lifeblood, and all the canoe families who traveled to our shores understand that sentiment.”
A rally took place on Monday, July 14 to inform the gathered canoe families from across the Great Bear Sea and the Pacific.