The Northern View: Leaders reflect on Enbridge court challenge and reserved decision

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October 16, 2015 | Kevin Campbell | The Northern View

With the Vancouver Federal Court of Appeals reserving their decision to uphold or reject the government’s approval of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, a 1,200 km pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands to a Kitimat terminal shipping diluted bitumen, both Enbridge and area First Nations are taking a wait-and-see approach for potential next steps.

On Oct. 8, the Federal Court of Appeal in Vancouver ended six days of legal challenges presented in court of arguments against the project, including those by the North Coast band, Kitkatla.

“[The court] basically just said they’ll come back with a response a little later on and they were going to review the material and get back to our respective lawyers on it,” said Kitkatla Chief Clifford White last week.

“For us though, it’s definitely ‘No’ to crude oil going through the territory. One spill would devastate our [land] and all types of seafood and it will actually destroy the beauty and nature of the northwest coast here.”

Arguments in favour of overturning the government’s go-ahead to Enbridge include stating that the pipeline review panel did not adequately converse with affected First Nations groups or fully take into account the potential threats to the environment that the pipeline’s route would take.

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice weighed in on the issue as well, stating that these proceedings are nothing new for the company.

“There is no question that the Enbridge pipelines and supertanker project is not in the public’s interest with the thousands of people who spoke against the project during the NEB (National Energy Board) hearings. There is significant opposition from northern First Nations and coastal communities that would be most impacted by the project,” said Rice.

“Premier [Christy] Clark confounded this by relinquishing B.C.’s rights to a joint environmental assessment which further eroded British Columbians’ confidence in her government to keep our best interests at stake. I think it’s time we move past the controversial Enbridge project and focus on projects that speak favourably to the rights and values of the citizens of British Columbia and [the rest of] Canada.”

Enbridge president of Northern Gateway, John Carruthers, responded after the litigation processes concluded on Oct. 8.

“We believe First Nations and Métis peoples should be owners of projects on their lands and territories and should benefit directly from such projects. That ownership will result in such long-term financial dividends, jobs, educational and economic opportunities, and will ensure that First Nations and Métis communities can directly contribute their traditional knowledge to make projects better and safer,” said Carruthers in a statement.

“Despite this litigation hearing, we remain committed to working collaboratively with the applicant First Nations and would be very pleased to develop mutually beneficial solutions with them. Northern Gateway is open to change. We will continue to adapt and address First Nation and Métis concerns as they arise and seek opportunities for meaningful, respectful dialogue with all groups.”

In June 2014, the government approved the $7 billion project with 209 conditions made by a review panel created to consider environmental impacts.

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