The Yinka Dene Alliance, which leads the First Nations charge against Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to the British Columbia coast, is scoffing at the corporation’s claims that it has signed up takers.
"Enbridge's pipeline isn't happening, period. It doesn't matter who they get a deal with,” said Chief Larry Nooski of Nadleh Whut’en First Nation, a member of the alliance, in a statement. “They plan to come through our territories and we've already said no, and we'll use every legal means we have to stop them. Their proposed pipeline is against our laws because we refuse to put our communities at the risk of oil spills.”
Calgary-based Enbridge said on August 25 that it had signed several in the industry up for contracts to buy oil from the pipeline, which would cut across British Columbia, skirting the rainforest and the habitat of the spirit bear, to the Pacific coast. This would open the market for bituminous oil to Asia.
On August 24 Enbridge announced that it had filed documentation with Canada’s National Energy Board for long-term service agreements for both the crude oil export pipeline and the condensate import pipeline and that the parties—which Enbridge said were confidential—had agreed on commercial terms.
"Commercial support for the project from both Canadian oil producers and Asian markets reinforces the international importance of the project to Canada—facilitating access to world markets and international pricing for Canada's most valuable non-renewable resource," said Enbridge Executive Vice President of Western Access Janet Holder. "This support demonstrates the need for Northern Gateway and is a major step forward for the project.”
The Yinka Dene Alliance, which has opposed the plan from day 1, begged to differ.
“Getting industry to support their plan is not going to help them. These lands belong to First Nations and they will never get our permission because our lands and rivers are not for sale,” Nooski’s statement said.
Meanwhile protests continued in front of the White House in Washington, D.C., to protest another oil sands pipeline, this one the 1,700-mile-long Keystone proposed from Alberta down through the U.S. to the Gulf of Mexico. Hundreds of protesters have been arrested for disobeying a police order to disband, including aboriginal actress Tantoo Cardinal and Canadian actress Margot Kidder.
Both the Northern Gateway and the Keystone would cross indigenous lands and, aboriginals say, harm the environment. The Dene Nation, whose territory stretches from northern Alberta through the Northwest Territories, has also voted to oppose the Northern Gateway.
“There are now more than 100 First Nations in western Canada who've said no to their pipeline and tankers,” Nooski said. “From the Rockies to the Pacific, every mile of their pipeline and tanker route goes through a First Nation that has banned their project. This pipeline is dead in the water."