Over the past week here in Edmonton we have seen a flurry of First Nation representatives, government representatives and corporate representative filing in and out of the Northern Gateway pipeline hearings on the west side of Edmonton. Yesterday marked the last day of the hearings here and it ended with a powerful presentation from the Driftpile First Nation.
Over the course of the past week the Joint Review Panel heard oral testimony from various First Nation communities with intervenor status. The testimony heard from First Nation communities along the pipeline cooridor and downstream of the corridorover outlined the serious concerns regarding the impacts of the pipeline to wildlife, eco-systems and traditional lives of the communities. Chief Laboucan from Driftpile wrapped up the hearings yesterday with eloquent and compelling testimony about impacts of industrial development on the lives and livelihoods of the people dependent on the land. She spoke of the impacts of colonization and the need and process of decolonization bringing industrial development and the whole picture into focus. Her words silenced the room and reminded me of what is needed after a week of long and often hard to hear testimony that I felt was being left on deaf ears.
Last Friday, Dene Nation, a registered intervenor, presented to the panel outlining concerns of the pipeline and the implications it would have on communities downstream. Representatives from Dene Nation included Chiefs from Alberta and NWT many of them bringing forward concerns about massive industrial development already felt in their communities. Many of the Chiefs tied the pipeline directly to massive tar sands expansion in Alberta voicing concern over the impacts already felt from an industry that has pushed them to the waysides. What came next was appalling, the Dene leaders were repeatedly asked to refrain from testifying about cumulative environmental effects from area industrialization. The panel said their mandate does not include hearing cumulative effects testimony, and any such information would not be taken into account when deciding the line’s fate.
“Why is cancer so high? Why are our people dying of cancer?” said Francois Paulette, a Dene Elder. “You mentioned that you (panel) want to listen to traditional knowledge (but) traditional knowledge is just one aspect of a bigger picture.”
Following the presentation to panel Dene leaders along with Swan River First Nation, Beaver Lake First Nation, Dene Tha’ First Nation and Keepers of the Athabasca met with members of the Yinka Dene Alliance. The Yinka Dene Alliance is made up of 6 Nations (Nadleh Whut’en, Saik’uz, Takla Lake, Nak’azdli, Wet’suwet’en and Tlazt’en Nations) in northern British Columbia who are responsible for the creation of the Save the Fraser Declaration in 2010, a formal declaration opposing the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline and supertankers project. The Yinka Dene Alliance member and Chief of the Saik’uz First Nation, Jackie Thomas and Geraldine Thomas welcomed the signatures of 10 Chiefs and the Keepers of the Athabasca at a signing ceremony in a neighboring hotel.
The Save the Fraser Declaration recognizes the connection to tar sands expansion projects and criticizes the federal process to approve the pipeline. The Declaration states, “This project would link the Tar Sands to Asia through our territories and the headwaters of this great river, and the federal process to approve it, violate our laws, traditions, values and our inherent rights as Indigenous Peoples under international law…”
Since the creation of this Declaration in 2012 over 100 First Nations in BC, Alberta and the NWT have signed on supporting opposition of the proposed Enbridge pipeline and tankers.
Chief Adam voices his voice of support in this news clip and article from CTV news Edmonton here.
“As a community being impacted by rapid tar sands development in the Alberta we support the Yinka Dene Alliance and understand the importance of protecting sacred waterways from the dangers of this pipeline,” stated Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. “Our community has seen the devastating impacts of tar sands projects and we truly hope that our brothers and sisters in the Fraser River do not suffer the same fate.”
“Our downstream communities have already experienced impacts from the ruptured Enbridge Norman Wells pipeline in the NWT, which is still being cleaned,” stated Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus. “A rupture in the Northern Gateway pipeline could also affect us because the water comes north. People in the north get their drinking water directly from the rivers and streams.”
New Signatories to the Declaration include Dene Nation,Keepers of the Athabasca, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Swan River First Nation, Smith’s Landing First Nation, Liidlii Kue First Nation, Deh Gah Got’ie First Nation, Ketlodeeche First Nation, Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Dene Tha’ First Nation and Deh Cho First Nations.