Posted May 18
By: Gordon Hamilton, Vancouver Sun
Enbridge's Northern Gateway oil pipeline has failed to meet the British Columbia government's five conditions for approving the project, the government stated Friday.
In an email response to The Sun over demands from aboriginal groups opposed to the project who want to meet Premier Christy Clark, the ministry of aboriginal relations and reconciliation said the project has not met the province's standard.
"As you know, one of the five requirements involves giving First Nations appropriate opportunities to participate in any heavy pipeline proposal. This is a reflection of our commitment to economic development in partnership with First Nations.
"Following aggressive cross-examining by the provincial government during (Northern Gateway) hearings, it's clear the five conditions have not been met."
The joint review panel holding hearings on the Northern Gateway Project has made no decision yet but has issued its own set of environmental and aboriginal employment conditions that Enbridge must meet.
The ministry of aboriginal relations and reconciliation issued the statement about Northern Gateway in response to six northern B.C. First Nations saying Friday that their position on future resource development - including liquefied natural gas pipelines - hinges on Premier Christy Clark meeting with them face-to-face.
The government has not responded to that request and Clark is currently away. The six nations, members of the Yinka Dene Alliance that is leading the fight against the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, hold territory northwest of Prince George that covers 25 per cent of the right-of-way for the proposed oil pipeline. They say they are linking LNG development with Northern Gateway. The alliance was formed specifically to fight Enbridge's $6-billion pipeline proposal.
They said that if the premier does not meet with them in leader-to-leader talks - a meeting they say Clark promised in 2011 - resource development is at risk.
"The premier has to sit and talk with the Yinka Dene people because LNG is not going to happen if proper consultation doesn't happen.
"There has to be an agreement between the province and Yinka Dene people on how projects are approved," said Martin Louie, chief of the Nadleh Whut'en First Nation, one of the six Dene bands. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday after her election win, Clark repeated her position that the door to oil pipelines remains open if conditions can be met.
The five conditions include addressing legal requirements regarding aboriginal and treaty rights and ensuring First Nations are provided with the information and resources necessary to participate in and benefit from the project.
Energy companies Shell, Chevron, the BG Group and Pet-ronas have proposed construction of three pipelines across British Columbia to deliver gas from Alberta and the province's northeast to Kitimat and Prince Rupert. It is expected that two or three major terminals will be constructed.
Clark made LNG development as the foundation for a strong economy the keystone of her successful re-election strategy. The projects proposed so far have the potential to pump from $40 billion to $50 billion into the province's north. Natural gas is generally viewed as more environmentally benign than oilsands bitumen.
Geraldine Thomas-Flurer, Yinka Dene Alliance co-ordinator, said face-to-face talks are key if the province wants to build a relationship with the Dene people.
She said the alliance has not taken a position yet on LNG development, but it is firmly against Northern Gateway. She said the alliance has province-wide supporters, including 160 First Nations who have signed their Save The Fraser declaration. In 2012, the City of Vancouver named Dec. 13 Save The Fraser Declaration Day in solidarity with the Yinka Dene.
She said she wants the premier to see first-hand what is at risk for the six First Nations if the pipeline is approved.
"What we are trying to say is that these discussions (on resource development) have to happen. It hasn't happened. Christy Clark cannot make these decisions on her own," Thomas-Flurer said.
"We are basing everything on how this goes. If she takes us seriously, if she comes to the table with a mandate, all the better."