VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - Feb. 6, 2014) - The Gitxaala Nation today filed submissions to the government of Canada, saying much work needs to be done to fulfill the government's obligation to meaningfully consult on the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project.
Since 2010, the Gitxaala have participated in good faith in the review of Enbridge's Northern Gateway Project, dedicating significant resources to present concerns and expert evidence. Throughout the Joint Review Panel process, Gitxaala raised concerns that the Northern Gateway Project would adversely affect its constitutionally protected Aboriginal rights including adverse impacts on its Aboriginal title and self-governance.
"Gitxaala Nation played by the rules," said Acting Chief Clarence Innis. "We spent considerable time and resources on our submission to the JRP. But our concerns were ignored."
The evidence Gitxaala put before the JRP showed that if the Project were permitted, it would interfere with the Gitxaala's rights in numerous ways, including: jurisdiction, governance and Aboriginal title; and economic, cultural and spiritual way of life.
Gitxaala Nation relies on its territorial waters for 80 per cent of its food source and has serious concerns that the project will jeopardize its traditional harvesting territory. The Gitxaala are known as the people of the salt water.
The Gitxaala were shocked that the JRP ignored and summarily dismissed all of its concerns.
The Supreme Court of Canada has recognized, in a number of rulings, the duty to consult and accommodate First Nations. Those decisions have found that consultation and accommodation are constitutional obligations that must take place before important decisions affecting First Nations are made.
To ensure that Government actions, such as permitting an oil pipeline, terminal project or related marine traffic, do not contravene constitutional requirements, the Crown must consult meaningfully and at an early stage. Those consultations have not occurred.
To date, Canada has refused to talk with Gitxaala about its Aboriginal rights and the potential impacts from the Project - despite repeated requests.
The Gitxaala are alarmed the Federal Government has not left enough time for meaningful consultation before a decision will be made on the Enbridge project. The government has scheduled three days to meet with Gitxaala representatives in April. A decision on the project is expected by the end of June.
"Canada's highest Court has ruled the Government of Canada has a deep duty to consult the Gitxaala," said Innis. "Three days to consult on the issue of title and rights is alarmingly insufficient."