First Nations leaders and more than a hundred of their supporters are addressing local and national media in Calgary this morning about a new development in the fight against the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline.
In an unprecedented expression of solidarity, three Alberta First Nations, four BC First Nations, and a Manitoba First Nation with an existing Enbridge pipeline in its territory signed a solidarity statement yesterday, telling the Harper government and Enbridge that the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project must not proceed unless each affected Nation gives its free, prior and informed consent.
Today’s announcement kicks off a day of opposition against the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. Over 100 First Nations are planning to march on Enbridge’s Headquarters in downtown Calgary, accompanied by traditional drummers and dancers carrying a banner reading, “No pipelines without consent.”
Later in the afternoon, five First Nations will be speaking as proxy representatives inside the Enbridge AGM. Among them will be 10 year old Ta’Kaiya Blaney, who recently released a music video titled “Shallow Waters,” challenging the short-sighted push for oil pipelines and tankers from the perspective of future generations.
The importance of these actions has been heightened by more oil spills in Canada, this time an Enbridge leak on its Norman Wells line in the Northwest Territories. The latest leak follows several other recent incidents that have hobbled pipelines in Canada, including the recently discovered 4.5 million litre crude oil spill near Little Buffalo in Alberta – the largest spill in Alberta in 35 years.
All of this, combined with Stephen Harper’s post-election contention that a Conservative majority government will pave the way for pipelines and oil tankers off the coast of British Columbia, has hardened the resolve of First Nations to stop them. The Financial Post has an excellent story this morning, offering one of the most accurate pictures of the true nature of this opposition and how the oil and gas industry has misjudged it.
We’ve heard anecdotal reports from media that Enbridge has been telling investors and the oil & gas community that First Nations opposition is going to somehow be smoothed over, that it’s not a big deal. Today’s actions and other stories should begin to put to rest the dying idea that Enbridge doesn’t have a “First Nations problem.”
Today’s story is a reminder of the growing influence of First Nations empowerment in opposing tar sands infrastructure development, and other high-risk, low-return resource extraction projects. At a time when the climate crisis is in full swing, we should all be thankful that First Nations are taking a strong stand against the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline and other short-term unsustainable projects like it.
To conclude, I quote Peter Erickson, a hereditary chief of Nak’azdli First Nation: “Harper says that the effort to stop this pipeline is aimed at harming Western Canada. That couldn’t be further from the truth. We have a sacred obligation to protect our community and all of our neighbours from harm – Native and non-Native – from the inevitable oil spills.”
We all have a sacred obligation to oppose the effort to bring tar sands crude to the West Coast of Canada. No tankers. No pipelines.