Yinka Dene Alliance

May 11, 2011 11:00 ET

Oil Sands: First Nations Hit Back Against Harper; Say Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Will Be Stopped in Its Tracks

"Harper's win doesn't matter. Our Nations are the wall this pipeline will not break through." - Chief Larry Nooski

CALGARY, ALBERTA--(Marketwire - May 11, 2011) - First Nations are gathering in Stephen Harper's political home base of Calgary to reject the Prime Minister's suggestion the morning after the election that his majority win puts an end to the bid to stop oil pipelines and tankers from coming to the west coast of Canada.

Three Alberta First Nations, four BC First Nations, and a Manitoba First Nation with an existing Enbridge pipeline in its territory signed a solidarity statement yesterday, telling the Harper government and Enbridge that its Northern Gateway pipeline project must not proceed unless each affected Nation gives its free, prior and informed consent. This is the first time that Alberta First Nations have made a statement together with BC First Nations about Enbridge. First Nations members will march to Enbridge's headquarters, and its annual shareholders meeting to send the message that the project will not be allowed in their traditional territories, according to ancestral laws. The march will be joined by traditional drummers and singers carrying a banner that says "No pipelines without consent."

"If Harper and Enbridge think this pipeline is a done deal because of the election result, they've got another thing coming," said Chief Larry Nooski of Nadleh Whut'en First Nation, a member of the Yinka Dene Alliance about 150 km west of Prince George, BC. "First Nations have used our ancestral laws to ban Enbridge's pipelines and tankers from their lands, taking up more than half of the proposed pipeline and tanker route from the Rockies clear across to the Pacific ocean. We're united as never before, and now our brothers and sisters from Alberta are speaking out for the first time in solidarity with our position that we have the right to say no. Our Nations are the wall this pipeline will not break through."

Today's action is being led by the Yinka Dene Alliance, a group of five Nations that collectively hold 25% of Enbridge's proposed pipeline route in northern British Columbia. Chiefs of the First Nations will address Enbridge shareholders this afternoon, and had an unprecedented face-to-face meeting with Enbridge's full board of directors and executive team yesterday to clearly state their opposition.

"We told Enbridge's board and its CEO – right to their faces – that we're not here to negotiate a better deal," said Chief Jackie Thomas of Saik'uz. "Enbridge's money is worthless to us because their pipeline will cause oil spills that could destroy the rivers, fish, and animals that are the lifeblood of our people and culture. We also told them that we will not let up in opposing this pipeline. We'll tell their shareholders and investors the same message today. Putting money into this pipeline is just throwing good money after bad."

"Harper says that the effort to stop this pipeline is aimed at harming Western Canada. That couldn't be further from the truth," said Peter Erickson, a hereditary chief of Nak'azdli First Nation. "We have a sacred obligation to protect our community and all of our neighbours from harm - Native and non-Native - from the inevitable oil spills."

Chief Dolly Abraham of Takla Lake First Nation added: "Just last week Alberta had its biggest oil spill in 35 years in the lands of our brothers and sisters, the Lubicon Cree. Enbridge averages more than one pipeline oil spill each week, both tiny and huge like in Michigan last year. There is no way we'll allow that risk into our lands."

The Yinka Dene have escalated their opposition to Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline in recent months, including a series of meetings with five major banks to warn them to stop financing Enbridge until it drops the project.

In February, the Yinka Dene rejected Enbridge's offer of an equity stake in the project.

In December 2010, the Yinka Dene led the negotiation and signing of the Save the Fraser Declaration, a formal ban on Enbridge's pipeline through the massive Fraser River watershed. It was signed by sixty-one First Nations, which tripled the number of nations opposed to Enbridge, now standing at more than eighty.

The Yinka Dene delegation is joined by 10-year-old Ta'kaiya Blaney, a singer and young activist from Sliammon First Nation on the Pacific coast. Ta'Kaiya recently released a music video on YouTube opposing oil tanker traffic called "Shallow Waters" that she tried to deliver along with a letter in person to Enbridge's office in Vancouver, but was refused entry and escorted from the building. She has a shareholder proxy and will speak at Enbridge's annual meeting.

"I am worried that Enbridge's oil tankers will have an oil spill and hurt the fish, the wildlife that live in the ocean and our cultures," said Ta'kaiya. "I wanted to warn Enbridge at their offices in Vancouver but they wouldn't let me in. I've come to Calgary so they will have to listen to me. I represent the future generation."

The Yinka Dene Alliance includes Nadleh Whut'en, Nak'azdli, Takla Lake, Saik'uz and Wet'suwet'en First Nations.

Contact Information

  • Yinka Dene Alliance
    Geraldine Thomas-Flurer