Could First Nations still stop the Northern Gateway pipeline?

Protestors chant during a rally against the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project in Vancouver, BC. Yesterday the NEB approved the Gateway Pipeline proposal but First Nations insist on their involvement in the process and will likely stage protests & blockades. Reuters/Andy Clark

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A joint review panel is convinced Canada and Canadians would be better off with the Northern Gateway pipeline and it's recommending Ottawa give it the go-ahead if certain conditions are met. But Grand Chief Stewart Phillip and many others in First Nations communities along the pipeline route say this fight is far from over.

"It's not surprising they have recommended approval with the conditions, but also you can't help but feel disappointed and heartbreak for the land and for the environment and what we're standing to protect for our future generations."

Anne-Marie Sam, a member of the Yinka Dene Alliance

Like many opponents of the Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal, Anne Marie Sam isn't happy with the federal review panel's decision to support the project. If built, the pipeline would carry bitumen from the Alberta oil sands to the BC coast where it would be loaded onto tankers and shipped to Asia.

Northern Gateway pipeline by the numbers -- CBC News

Supporters say it's a much-needed way of opening up new markets for Canadian oil. The pipeline would run right across the Nak'azdli First Nation where Anne Marie Sam lives and she worries about what it would do to her land. After 180 days of hearings in 21 communities across B.C. and Alberta, the Joint Review Committee signed off on the pipeline proposal yesterday.


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Douglas Channel in Kitimat, B.C. is the proposed termination point for the Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta. CP/Darryl Dyck

Most observers think the federal government's final approval is now all but assured.

Anne Marie Sam is a member of the Yinka Dene Alliance, a group of First Nations communities in north-central BC which have come together to oppose the Northern Gateway proposal. She's not giving up yet and she's also not the only one still fighting.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip has long been opposed to the pipeline and he's seen little to change his mind. He believes there's been far too little consultation with First Nations, and says he'll fight the pipeline -- in the courts or "on the land". He is president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, and we reached Grand Chief Phillip at his home in Penticton, B.C.


We requested interviews with Natural Resources minister Joe Oliver and with Enbridge. Neither made themselves available to speak with us today.


"Unfortunately in this case the Joint review process was lacking, it was already set up for govt., for industry and not taking into account our ancestral laws and practices. We were told once the decision was made by the panel, then consultation would start with us, so we don't know what's going to happen next. but we are standing up with our laws and practices and protecting our territories, no matter what we have to do."

Chief Na' Moks with theTsayu clan in Smithers, BC
The proposed pipeline would run right through his territory

Rosanne Kyle is a lawyer with Janes Freedman Kyle Law, an aboriginal law and litigation firm in Vancouver. She represented the Gitxaala First Nation during the joint review panel hearings on the Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal. Rosanne Kyle was in Vancouver.


  • Stay tuned to CBC Radio One. Coming up this afternoon at 1pm on The 180, Jim Brown in Calgary looks into the economic and environmental implications of the NEB decision.

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This segment was produced by The Current's Gord Westmacott, Pacinthe Mattar and Calgary Network Producer, Michael O'Halloran.

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