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Coastal First Nations Respond to Joint Review Panel Recommendation on the Northern Gateway Pipeline

December 19, 2013

First Nations say panel decision is overshadowed by an incomplete risk assessment and the unaddressed question of Aboriginal Title and Rights.

(Vancouver, BC December 19, 2013) – The Coastal First Nations are disappointed, but not surprised by the Joint Review Panel’s (JRP) recommendation to conditionally approve Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Project, a recommendation that highlights unaddressed issues and questions that must be answered for First Nations and British Columbians.

“We aren’t surprised by the JRP’s recommendation,” said Coastal First Nations Executive Director Art Sterritt. “Their power and authority to make a decision on the Northern Gateway Pipeline was stripped by the Federal Government early in the process, so their ability to make an independent decision was seriously compromised.”

The Coastal First Nations believe the JRP recommendations highlight critical shortcomings of the review process, and raises questions that must be answered for First Nations and British Columbians:

  • The JRP was unable to complete a thorough risk assessment of the project with respect to the consequences of oil spills on First Nations’ Aboriginal Title and Rights;
  • The JRP did not examine the cumulative effects of marine transport and impacts on the environment and on endangered whales; and
  • The review raised, but did not answer several important questions, including ‘Does diluted bitumen sink? If it does can it be recovered? If it cannot be recovered what will the long-term impacts be?’

Regardless of the JRP recommendation and conditions we will believe it will be impossible for the pipeline to be built. “We are disappointed that the JRP did not listen to the people of BC.”

The panel’s finding that in the unlikely event of a large oil spill, there would be significant adverse effects on lands, waters, or resources used by Aboriginal groups, and that the adverse effects would not be permanent and widespread. The Coastal First Nations couldn’t disagree more. “The science on bitumen hasn’t been done. Beaches are still polluted in Alaska from the Exxon Valdez, and some fish and wildlife populations (including marine mammals) have never recovered,” Sterritt said. 

“The JRP has acknowledged the limitations of its review, and until the technological and scientific work is completed, the Enbridge project cannot go ahead,” said Sterritt. “It’s not good enough for the Federal Government to say we have world class oil spill clean up technologies. The fact of the matter is that no effort has been made by oil companies to improve clean up technologies in the last 25 years.”

The Coastal First Nations also point out that the project has not met the BC government’s five conditions for support. “We expect that Premier Clark and her government won’t support the project until the conditions have been met. Certainly the condition related to First Nations support of the project has not been achieved.” 

The JRP report, along with Douglas Eyford’s recent report Forging Partnerships Building Relationships, provides an opportunity for the Federal and Provincial governments to engage in discussions with the Coastal First Nations. “While we believe the Northern Gateway pipeline is dead, we are hopeful that in moving forward, we can use these reports, and the questions they raise to develop a pathway to the future that will focus on both protecting the environment and building a conservation-based economy on the coast,” said Sterritt.


For more information:

Art Sterritt

Executive Director

Coastal First Nations



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