Nuxalk First Nation pulling out of Northern gateway pipeline review

The Vancouver Sun
April 5, 2012

The Nuxalk First Nation of Bella Coola announced Thursday it is pulling out of the federal review process of Enbridge's proposed $5.5-billion Northern Gateway oil pipeline.

The Nuxalk, who had signed on as interveners but had yet to provide evidence, say they are withdrawing because of the federal government's recent pronouncement to shorten the review, and the review panel's handling of recent hearings in the neighbouring community of Bella Bella.

The hearings in Bella Bella were cancelled last Monday after the Heiltsuk Tribal Council greeted panel members with a protest. The hearings were reinstated Tuesday, but the community lost a day and a half to provide evidence.

The Nuxalk's home community is east of Bella Bella. The Nuxalk have about 1,600 members, 900 of which live in Bella Coola.

Nuxalk hereditary chief Charles Nelson said the band has also taken exception to Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver referring to first nations as "socially dysfunctional" in a recent speech to the Vancouver Board of Trade.

Another issue is the panel's lack of mandate to consult with First Nations on their unresolved treaty rights, he said.

"With all the [negatives] that have been accumulating, we've decided not to [participate]," said Nelson.

Like other coastal first nations, the Nuxalk are concerned about the threat and effect of an oil tanker spill on their way of life, which still depends on salmon, said Nelson.

Some first nations have accepted federal funding to participate in the hearing, but Nelson said the Nuxalk had not.

The federal review panel is hearing testimony from communities throughout B.C. and Alberta on the proposed 1,173-kilometre pipeline, which begins just north of Edmonton and terminates on B.C.'s northwest coast. Bella Coola is located about 200 kilometres south of Kitimat.

The pipeline is meant to open new markets in Asia for crude from the Alberta oilsands. Virtually all of Canada's oil exports are shipped to the United States.

Enbridge has said the pipeline can be built and operated safely, and will be an economic boon to Canada.

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