May 6, 2009, TORONTO – The environmental risk of a pipeline from Alberta’s tar sands to BC’s north coast is too high. That’s the message members of three BC First Nations took to Enbridge Inc.’s Annual General Meeting today in downtown Toronto.
Outside the Meridian King Edward Hotel, three First Nations delegates in traditional regalia demonstrated their unity against Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway Project with a “mixing of the waters” ceremony, in which they each poured water from their home rivers into a vessel.
“Our title and rights to our traditional territories have never been relinquished,” said Alphonse Gagnon, a Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief. “We will do whatever it takes to defend our lands and waters against this threat from Enbridge.”
“Enbridge’s plan will bring oil spills to our coast and to our inland salmon rivers,” said Gagnon. “The fish, the animals, and our way of life will all be destroyed – likely forever. We are here today to tell Enbridge we will never allow this to occur.”
Enbridge is proposing two 1,170-kilometre pipelines from Alberta to Kitimat, BC, carrying tar sands oil and condensate, a petroleum product used to thin bitumen. At Kitimat, the oil would be loaded on tankers bound for international markets.
“Oil spills are a certainty – it’s just a matter of time. Even with current technology there is too much room for human error, and our ability to clean up spills is nowhere near adequate.” said Gerald Amos of the Haisla First Nation. “The Exxon Valdez taught us it’s a risk we should not be taking at all.”
The delegates secured proxy passes to attend the Enbridge AGM, where they asked questions of Enbridge’s executive and board of directors.
“Consultation as it stands now only means more court cases and conflict,” said Tara Marsden of the Nadleh Whut’en First Nation. “We ask Enbridge to adopt a policy requiring First Nations consent, to respect the fact that these lands have never been surrendered to the Crown.”
ForestEthics and Dogwood Initiative, two environmental organizations also working to stop the Enbridge pipeline, joined the First Nations delegation in Toronto. The pipeline would allow a massive expansion of the tar sands, adding the equivalent global warming pollution of 1.6 million new cars on the road.
Gillian McEachern, ForestEthics. – 416-938-6032
Eric Swanson, Dogwood Initiative – 250-858-9990
Tara Marsden, Nadleh Whut’en First Nation – 250-614-3317
Digital photos available on request