A group of First Nations with territory covering a quarter of the route for the proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline met with federal representatives Friday to officially reject the project. Officials with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, the National Energy Board and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans met with the four clans of the Yinka Dene in Fort St. James, and listened as dozens of elders, hereditary and elected chiefs said “No.”
"We do not, we will not, allow this pipeline," Peter Erickson, a hereditary chief of the Nak’azdli First Nation, told the six federal bureaucrats. "We’re going to send the message today to the federal government and to the company itself: their pipeline is dead. Under no circumstances will that proposal be allowed. Their pipeline is now a pipe dream."
Karen Ogan, chief of the Wet’suwet’en, thanked the Crown representatives for listening. During the often emotional meeting, Ogan touched on the country’s checkered past with First Nations and its role in the dispute. “Some people may come from an anger perspective because we’ve been bulldozed, we’ve been run over all through history, through colonization and today we want our voice to be heard,” Ogan told the six bureaucrats during the day-long meeting.
The bands said the project is now banned from Yinka Dene territories, under their traditional laws. Members young and old of the Nadleh Whut’en, Nak’azdli, Saik’uz, Takla Lake, Tl’azt’en and Wet’suwet’en communities were unanimous. They said the decision by the four clans marks the end of negotiations. The pipeline project faces a major hurdle in getting First Nations on board but behind the scenes negotiations have continued talking with many groups. The company has also signed several benefits agreements with First Nations, though few of them admit publicly to the deals.