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Contentious Northern Gateway Hearings Open, Webcast January 10-11

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First Nations leaders presented evidence on Tuesday during the first day of community hearings about the Enbridge pipeline proposal called Northern Gateway.

Telling stories of their youth and the plentiful fish and game that sustained them, chiefs of the Haisla First Nation, who oppose the controversial project, worked to convince the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project Joint Review Panel members that the pipeline is a bad idea.

This first installment is being held in the village of Kitamaat in Haisla First Nation on January 10 and 11 starting at 9 a.m. Pacific Time and are being webcast at the panel’s site. The hearings will also be transcribed, with the transcripts posted on the panel’s website.

“The future of my children and grandchildren is what I’m talking about,” said one member of the Haisla Nation chiefs' council. He spoke of people dying of stomach cancer after drinking water that was deemed alright to drink, of other health problems he and his elders had seen. “One [pipeline] spill will wipe out everything” that we depend on, he said.

The $5.5-billion double-pipeline would run straight through First Nations territory and is opposed by just about all of them. Canadian, provincial and business leaders are eager to get the project approved, seeing it as a way to inject $270 billion into the Canadian economy over the course of its existence.

The panel’s mandate is to study risk assessment, project design and other factors. British Columbia officials and business interests say that the jobs the pipeline would bring are more important than any environmental impact. But First Nations chiefs disagreed during the first part of the hearings, for which thousands have registered to testify. The Yinka Dene Alliance, Dene Nation and many others, 130 First Nations in all, have registered opposition, and 4,000 people are expected to attend, CBC said.

“We the Haisla people are standing in front of a double-barreled shotgun,” said the chief. “The proposed pipeline will come through our back door, and the ships will come in and transport the crude oil. The impact of any spill will be a disaster.”