OTTAWA, June 17, 2014 /CNW/ - The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Executive Committee responded to the decision today by the federal government to approve the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project subject to the conditions set out in the December 2013 federal Joint Review Panel report.
AFN British Columbia Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould stated: "First Nations leadership in B.C. overwhelmingly oppose the Conservative government's irresponsible decision to approve Northern Gateway and will pursue all lawful means to ensure it does not get built. This already includes judicial reviews before the courts in respect of the Joint Review Panel's faulty process. For First Nations, the responsible choice has always been relatively easy. We are not opposed to resource development but not at any cost. First Nations and the majority of British Columbians believe this project poses an unacceptable risk to the environment, the health, the safety and livelihoods of all peoples throughout this province because of the undeniable possibility of pipeline and supertanker heavy oil spills. Also, it is unconscionable that the government would, in its approval, offload its legal responsibility to consult and accommodate with Aboriginal peoples to Enbridge."
AFN Alberta Regional Chief Cameron Alexis, who oversees the AFN environment portfolio and whose region would be the starting point for the pipeline, said: "To echo the recommendations of the Prime Minister's own representative, Douglas Eyford, in his November 2013 report, there is a need for an agreed upon process of consultation with First Nations. We are calling for a balanced approach agreeable by all parties at the table, including First Nations, and we need an appropriate cross-border process to be established amongst the provinces and First Nations with respect to projects that cross provincial lines. This effort is long overdue and now is the time to begin working on an approach that is respectful and inclusive of First Nations based on our rights and interests."
AFN Quebec/Labrador Regional Chief Ghislain Picard, who is currently official AFN spokesperson, stated: "This entire situation demonstrates the clear need for a real and robust engagement process with First Nations on all proposed resource development activities. First Nations are not an 'interest group.' We have constitutionally protected rights and title and there is a legal obligation on the part of government to meaningfully consult and accommodate First Nations. The federal government should be working with First Nations now on appropriate approaches for genuine, meaningful consultation based on the principles of free, prior and informed consent as articulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and our rights, title and Treaties."
On December 18, 2013, a federal Joint Review Panel report set out 209 conditions that must be met if the project was approved. The proposed 1,177 kilometre pipeline would carry 525,000 barrels of oil a day from northern Alberta to the Pacific Coast, passing through the lands and traditional territories of many First Nations.
The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Comms, @AFN_Updates.
SOURCE: Assembly of First Nations
For further information: Alain Garon, AFN Bilingual Communications Officer, 613-241-6789, ext 382, 613-292-0857, [email protected]; Jenna Young, AFN Communications Officer, 613-241-6789, ext 401, 613-314-8157, [email protected]