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First Nations challenge federal Enbridge decision in court

Heiltsuk and Kitasoo-Xaixais First Nations have filed a court challenge to the federal government’s decision to approve the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

The two Central Coast nations pledged to fight in court -- and, if necessary, on land -- to protect their territories and way of life.

“Our people have been clear since this pipeline was proposed,” said chief councillor Marilyn Slett of Heiltsuk Nation in a press release issued today. “We will not allow this to threaten our waters. We stand with our relatives up and down the coast in rejecting this frightful project.”

The nations said the federal government failed to consult with them before giving the go-ahead to the contested pipeline project.

“Our coastal peoples are disappointed by the blatant disregard shown to us throughout this process,” read a statement from Kitasoo-Xaixais tribal councillor Douglas Neasloss.

Slett said the government has made their decision based on flawed and uninformed recommendations from the Joint Review Panel for the Northern Gateway pipeline.

“This will not stand,” she said.

Both chiefs expressed hope the issue could be solved in the courts but vowed to uphold their Nation’s categorical rejection of the pipeline proposal.

“Our Nations are prepared to fight this until the end. We owe that much to our future generations,” said Neasloss.

The federal government approved construction of the proposed $6.5-billion Northern Gateway pipeline on June 17, 2014. If constructed, the 1,200 km pipeline would pipe Alberta oil sands through Northern B.C. to the Pacific and then through coastal waters in supertankers.

Enbridge has said it has agreements with 26 First Nation communities along the pipeline route, but none has stepped forward to be identified.

More than a 100 First Nations have publicly opposed the project.

Even with federal approval, which came with 209 conditions, the project has to be greenlighted by B.C.’s provincial government before construction can begin.

The province has five conditions that has to be met; passing a federal environmental review was one of them.

On June 17, B.C. environment minister Mary Polak told the media that the provincial government’s position on the Northern Gateway pipeline remained unchanged despite the federal decision.

“Northern Gateway still has a lot of work to do to meet British Columbia’s five conditions,” she said.

The Northern Gateway pipeline was scheduled to begin construction in 2015. It would take an estimated three years to complete the project.

Kristian Secher is completing a practicum at The Tyee. Find his previous stories here.

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