"We will defend our territories whatever the costs may be."
— Alliance of 31 First Nations
This week, despite broad public opposition, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper approved Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline. The Northern Gateway pipeline, seen as a backup option to the Keystone XL pipeline that is currently mired down in a political quagmire in the U.S., would ship 500,000 barrels of bitumen a day through British Columbia to the Pacific coast.
The approval sparked loud protest from First Nations groups and environmentalists. Opposition to Enbridge has already been heightened in British Columbia and with the Harper government’s announcement, opponents took to the streets of Vancouver and promised fierce resistance to the pipeline.
First Nations groups in Canada, which have long fought the pipeline, vowed to defend their land and their sovereignty with no surrender. In an unprecedented show of unity, 31 First Nations and tribal councils have signed a letter announcing their intention to "vigorously pursue all lawful means to stop the Enbridge project."
Furthermore the Uni’stot’en Clan has maintained a blockade encampment in the path of Enbridge and other proposed pipelines on their territory in British Columbia since 2009. Upon the Northern Gateway announcement they stated they “are prepared to continue to defend their territories against the incursion of government and industry.”
The environmental left has also vowed to fight back against Northern Gateway. Direct actions, protests and legal battles are being planned to stop the pipeline.
Immediately after the announcement, environmentalists launched sit-ins in Member of Parliament offices in opposition to the decision. Four were arrested at the office of James Moore, Conservative MP and Minister of Industry.
One of the four was Jackie DeRoo, MBA, a mother and retired businesswoman: “I'd never even been to a protest until Northern Gateway came along and I began to learn about climate change,” she said. “If ordinary citizens like me are willing to get arrested to stop this project, Harper can expect blockades that will make Clayoquot look like a picnic.”
At the same time as the Northern Gateway pipeline and Keystone XL campaigns, Enbridge have lobbied for a system of pipelines to send hundreds of thousands of barrels of tar sands south to refineries on the Gulf Coast. Enbridge has multiple pipelines proposed in the United States.
The oil giants are not backing off on draining the Alberta tar sands of every last drop of oil. Nor should the opposition back off in the slightest.
Photo: Direct action at Minister of Industry James Moore's office