Haisla Nation chief counsellor Ellis Ross has written a letter to Kitimat media sharply critizing the upcoming plebiscite on the Enbridge Northern Gateway project
Enbridge trying to buy Social Licence
This late in the day, a poll of its residents has no binding effect on the project. Next week, the District of Kitimat will seek the views of its residents on Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline Project. But to what end? If anything, it will lead to further uncertainty.
Deciding to hold a referendum at this late date is a slap in the face to all the work done by the Haisla Nation on this project. The Haisla Nation dedicated time and money toward testing Northern Gateway’s evidence and claims about safety and environmental protection, while the District stood by and did nothing.
The review process for this project has already left town, with the District taking no position on the project. Still undecided on what its views are on the project, the District now proposes to conduct a poll, instead of examining the facts in the JRP process. A poll to vote on a JRP report that we view as wrong to begin with including the flawed process itself!
Based on our participation, the Haisla Nation has determined the risks associated with Northern Gateway’s transport of diluted bitumen and condensate clearly outweighs any potential benefits. This is an informed conclusion, made after reviewing Northern Gateway’s application and evidence, and participating extensively in the Joint Review Panel process.
The Haisla Nation is doing what it can to protect what is left of its Territory. The Joint Review Panel Report has failed to properly address the concerns associated with the project, which is why the Haisla Nation has asked the Federal Court of Appeal to review the JRP’s Report. And the Haisla Nation is not alone in its challenge of the Report. Two other First Nations – Gitga’at and Git’xaala – and two environmental organizations have also challenged the Report.
Enbridge Northern Gateway is desperate for public support. That is why it is conducting a media and canvassing blitz in the District to sway voters. Will the District of Kitimat be able to form a position based on the outcome of such a plebiscite, which would have been bought by oil money, instead of based on participating in a fact finding process like the JRP? What is a yes vote that has been bought by Enbridge’s vast advertising machine worth? Does a purchased social licence hold any value at all? If it does have a price tag, it doesn’t come close to the value that the Haisla people place on what is left of Haisla Territory; especially if you look at what has happened in the Gulf of Mexico, at Kalamazoo and the effects lasting even to today in Prince William Sound (Exxon Valdez).
The Haisla Nation will not be swayed by a yes vote in the District of Kitimat plebiscite. If anything, our membership is angry that it is even happening at all. This project is wrong for the Haisla Nation and it is wrong for the Territory that Haisla’s and non Haisla’s call home. We have a choice. We have more than enough projects to sustain the region and we are already seeing the results.
There is also some controversy in Kitimat whether or not members of the Haisla Nation should be able to vote in the April 12 plebiscite. District officials noted that its has jurisdiction only within District boundaries. That means that members of the Haisla Nation who live within the boundaries of the District can vote, while Haisla who live in Kitamaat Village, which is a federally designated Indian Reserve cannot.
Earlier in the week, Ross was equally blunt in a Facebook posting aimed at the Haisla Nation where he said:
The Kitimat Council’s ‘vote’ is an insult to Haisla given the amount of time, effort and money we’ve spent since 09 and they come in at the last minute to cheer lead for Enbridge but he vote wont mean anything regardless of the outcome.
District of Kitimat can’t make this project happen even if its a yes vote. We will make our position known to both this vote and our reaffirmation of this project and its impacts to our rights and title.
Haisla members: remember what we’ve been saying about this in our membership meetings since 09.
On Monday, in an Op Ed in the Vancouver Sun, Clarence Innis, acting chief of the Gitxaala Nation, wrote, in part:
We, the Gitxaala Nation, are vehemently opposed to Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project because of the disastrous effects the shipment of heavy oil through our territory would have on our traditional way of life, economy, spirituality, and governance system….
What’s especially concerning is that our people have not been properly consulted about the impacts of the Northern Gateway Project, despite openly participating and co‑operating with the federal joint review panel process. We went out of our way to participate in Canada’s regulatory system, yet our rights have been completely ignored.