The long awaited Joint Review Panel hearings into the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline begin Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. at the Haisla Recreation Centre in Kitamaat Village.
Elders from the Heiltsuk First Nation at Bella Bella and from the Kitasoo/Xaixais First Nation at Klemtu arrived at the Kitamaat Village dock shortly after 5 p.m. Monday evening.
The elders will take part in the opening ceremony at Kitamaat Village Tuesay morning, along with the leaders and elders of the Haisla First Nation.
Members of the Haisla and other First Nations will be first to testify, followed by other residents of Kitimat. It is understood that Enbridge, which has proposed building the pipeline, will only have a token presence at the hearings. Enbridge officials will likely give most of their testimony when the hearings reach Edmonton.
The hearings, already controversial on a national level, became more heated Monday when Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver issued an open letter accusing radical environmentalists under foreign influence of blocking the project and also undermining the Canadian economy.
Controversy also grew late Monday when an article in the Terrace Daily by editor Merv Ritchie claimed that Tuesday’s hearings will be disrupted by agents provacateurs. Ritchie says the paper received calls concerning statements made by some of the passengers on inbound fights to Terrace Kitimat airport.
“We are paid protesters”, stated one among a group, as reported to us “We are coming to discover the emotional issues of the people at the protests.”
Members of the local groups are also saying that the Joint Review Panel has shortened their allotted presentation time from three hours to one half hour.