SOURCE: Gitxaala Nation

September 30, 2015 17:04 ET

'Watershed Moment' for Gitxaala Nation as It Readies Arguments Challenging the Government of Canada on Northern Gateway

VANCOUVER, BC--(Marketwired - September 30, 2015) - The Gitxaala Nation (Kitkatla) will be before the Federal Court of Appeal this week to defend its 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," said Nees Ma'Outa (hereditary and elected Chief Cliff White). "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."

There is a requirement for all parties to be reasonable and ensure that meaningful consultation happens when considering a project of this magnitude. This responsibility extends to all stakeholders including government agencies, corporations, non-governmental organizations, and other First Nations.

"Gitxaala has been willing to have an open and honest discussion about this project, but it is not a discussion when only one side is listening. To ensure our voice is heard, we are going to the Federal Court of Appeal," said Chief White.

The Gitxaala Nation -- 'People of the Salt Water' -- are dependent on the coastal environment for food and sustenance.

"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).

Backgrounder

About the Gitxaala Nation

The Gitxaala Nation is located on the North Coast of British Columbia, approximately 45 km southwest of Prince Rupert.

As one of the longest continually-inhabited communities in all of North America, the Gitxaala have lived and thrived on the north coast for thousands of years.

The Gitxaala people also known as the Git Lax Moon, or the “People of the Salt Water,” define their culture and identity by the marine resources of their traditional territory.

About the Gitxaala action

  • The Gitxaala Nation has taken the position that they were not properly consulted and that the federal Cabinet’s and NEB’s approvals of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project are invalid and infringe on Gitxaala Title and Governance Rights.
  • The Gitxaala Nation has, since the Northern Gateway Project was proposed, raised concerns about the impacts on their Aboriginal Title and Governance Rights, including, the catastrophic impact of a bitumen oil spill on the marine environment.
  • The Government of Canada assured Gitxaała that the Judicial Review Process would address Aboriginal Title and infringement, and, as a result, all evidence about rights would need to be considered within the framework of this process.
  • Gitxaala’s participation in the Judicial Review Process included the provision of extensive evidence about their governance system, place names and use of territory over thousands of years. Gitxaala’s inherent rights (gugwilx'ya'ansk) and laws (ayaawx) have been passed down through oral history (adawx) confirming Gitxaala Aboriginal Title and Governance Rights in the area affected by the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.
  • Although the Government of Canada promised Gitxaala’s rights would be considered, they did not sincerely consult with Gitxaala about their rights or the Project’s impacts. This included not providing critical information about emergency response, clean-up, sensitive habitats and vessel management that Gitxaala made clear would be required.

Contact Information

  • For more information:
    Chief Cliff White
    1 (778) 884-1392