By Jim Windle with files from NationTalk
VANCOUVER ‑ The troubled Enbridge Northern Gateway project is being challenged at every level from both First Nations and environmentally conscious non-Native groups and individuals, and may be Prime Minister Harper’s undoing on October 19th when Canada goes to the polls.
One of the most recent legal challenges to gain traction is that of the Gitxaala Nation (Kitkatla) of BC. They began hearings last week at the Federal Court of Appeal defending Gitxaala Nation’s right to be meaningfully consulted by the Government of Canada on Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project.
“This legal action is a watershed moment for the Gitxaala,” Nees Ma’Outa (hereditary and elected Chief Cliff White) said in an interview with NationTalk. “After six years working through the NEB’s regulatory process, there are more questions than answers about the potential environmental impacts of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Project. We will not stand by and accept the as-yet undefined consequences of a catastrophic oil spill, especially when we haven’t been properly consulted.”
“The ocean is our garden” said hereditary Chief Txa gyet (Clarence Innis). “We are surrounded by a bounty of salmon, shellfish, and seaweed that sustains our life and our culture. The Enbridge project puts all this at risk. If there is an oil spill we will lose our food, our culture, our community.”
“Today, we represent a speck in time relative to the thousands of years Gitxaala has managed its territory on a sustainable basis. Our duty is to honour our gugwilx’ya’ansk — which is to ensure and protect our environment for future generations, for all Tsimshian people,” said hereditary Chief Txa La Xaatk (Matthew Hill).
The duty to consult has been a political football since it was first brought to the surface in legal challenges in the BC Supreme Court in the early 2000’s, but defining what that actually means and who are and are not obliged to consult and with whom, is slowly being defined and codified through many court challenges since then.
This latest case before the BC Court of Appeals with have significant ramifications, either way.