Tar Sands, Enbridge and Indigenous Resistance

By Rainforest Action Network
One of the great banners we made at the Action camp.

In mid-July I attended the 1st Annual ‘Unist’ot’en Environmental Action Camp in Unist’ot’en territory in Northern BC as a facilitator and participant. Members of the Wetsuweten nation, joined by First Nations activists and allies from across Canada and US – including Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), Rainforest Action Network (RAN), and Ruckus Society – organized to offer participants training in non-violent direct action (NVDA) theory and planning, media messaging, as well as tactical sessions introducing blockades, climbing, and developing creative visuals.  The camp also included speakers that discussed carbon offsetting and the tar sands mega project.

As part of the camp we took some of the theory of NVDA and put it into action.  The ‘Unist’ot’en of the Wet’suwet’en Nation led a rally on July 16th alongside their grassroots allies and supporters in Smithers, BC (the closest town to the action camp) designed to assert their title and rights on their ancient lands.

The rally had a strong focus on opposition to the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, the current consultation process, and the bodies that support and fund it. This of course includes the Royal Bank of Canada. Enbridge plans to build a pipeline that extends 1,172 kilometres from Bruderheim, just north of Edmonton, to Kitimat on the B.C. coast  running through traditional first nation lands, salmon runs and fragile eco-systems and it will carry an average of 525,000 barrels of tar sands per day.

this is a great photo from a banner hang we did on main street in Smithers, BC

The following list of demands was delivered to the Ministry offices who issue permits and licences for industry and private interests.

1. The Unist’ot’en are a legitimate governing body who have never ceded our surrendered our ancient lands to any party. A regulatory regime will be resurrected to ensure that all interests on ‘Unist’ot’en lands are solely and primarily directed to the rightful owners;

2. The ‘Unist’ot’en law (‘Inuk nu’ot’en) for any outside parties who want to do business on ‘Unist’ot’en Yintah (traditional territories) requires meaningful “Free, Prior, and Informed Consent” with legitimate Clan/House Group membership prior to any development on unceded traditional territories. This is a measure that will be enforced to prevent the infringement of their section 35(1) rights and title and infringement on ‘Unist’ot’en ‘Inik nu’ot’en;

Just a little over a week following the camp we saw just how warranted pipeline opposition is and just how dangerous a spill from a pipeline can be.  On July 28, 2010 the Enbridge Lakehead pipeline system burst in Michigan unleashing more than three million litres of oil into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River further fueling the debate of dangers of the Northern Gateway pipeline. The Northern Gateway pipeline is supposed to cross 1,000 streams and rivers, including the Skeena and Fraser Rivers, which are valuable wild-salmon habitats and important to cultures and economies in B.C.

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/Michigan+spill+fuels+debate+over+Enbridge+Alberta+pipeline/3337974/story.html#ixzz0v6dDuARV

This was followed by a Greenpeace occupation of the Enbridge office in Vancouver demanding they halt plans to build the Northern Gateway pipeline.  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/british-columbia/greenpeace-protest-against-enbridge-pipeline-ends-with-four-arrests/article1656131/

This is all very interesting considering RBC’s offer tabled to RAN at the beginning of July where their new policy acknowledges “free, prior and informed consent” (FPIC) as an international standard established by the UN, but requires it from clients only where FPIC is national law.” RBC also plans to develop a stronger Environmental policy that would help weed out bad apples that contribute to environmental devastation. http://understory.ran.org/2010/07/12/rbc-tables-an-offer-on-tar-sand/

It would seem to me that if the Royal Bank of Canada, or any bank for that matter, has any environmental and Indigenous rights policies in place they will steer clear of financing the Northern Gateway project.  I guess we’ll be keeping a close eye on how things progress with Enbridge and RBC in the coming year…

“It is time for the Governments of Canada and B.C. to start honoring our traditional governance system of the ‘Unist’ot’en Chiefs. We have never ceded or surrendered our territory. Destruction of forest, waters, and wildlife will no longer be tolerated. True meaningful consultation must start taking place regarding all our territory” ~ Freda Huson of Wetsuweten Nation