Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, pictured here with his wife Joan, is a
strong opponent to the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline.
By SCOTT TRUDEAU
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first in a four-part series on location
reaction to the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.
When asked about his feelings of proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline,
the president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs provided what was
perhaps a predictable response regarding First Nations’ opinion of
“There’s significant and substantial First Nation opposition to both
the Kinder Morgan and the Enbridge pipeline proposal,” said Grand
Chief Stewart Phillip, former head of the Penticton Indian Band.
A recent Abacus data poll asked some B.C. residents if they support
the project based on what they know about the proposed pipeline that
would transport oil sands bitumen from Northern Alberta to tankers
off the coast of northern B.C.
A total of 56 per cent were somewhat or strongly opposed, while 24
per cent were somewhat or strongly in support of the project.
The pipeline would traverse hundreds of kilometres of rugged and
remote northern terrain, and in the event a line rupture occurred, it
would take a considerable amount of time for crews to make their way
to the point of breakage in order to address it.
As for transporting the bitumen on tankers from Kitimat, Phillip
expressed concerns over navigating the waterways along the Inner
Passage, calling it, “the most treacherous waters on the planet.”
Phillip believes the evidence being brought forward around the
pipeline has strengthened the argument for the opposing side.
“I’m thinking, of course, of the National Transportation and Safety
Board, a report that was done in the U.S. — a scathing attack on
Enbridge, said they were the most incompetent pipeline entity that
ever existed and compared them to the Keystone Cops with respect to
the Kalamazoo (Michigan) spill.”
The company has not been forthcoming with the information it has
provided about the project. Enbridge has yet to provide the joint
review panel with accurate information as to how it would mitigate a
Claims that Enbridge consulted with First Nations and that the
project has the support of about 60 per cent are false, said Phillip.
“There’s no evidence to that. I have said on a number of occasions
there are no degrees of separation between a First Nations government
and their constituents,” he said.
It would be impossible for any First Nation council member to meet
with Enbridge without news of that meeting trickling into the community.
Phillip said the information provided by the company regarding clean
up is related to light crude oil and not bitumen which is heavier and
“I don’t think there’s any doubt it would be catastrophic,” he said.
“Enbridge has not been able to demonstrate that they have the
capacity or the expertise or the competence to respond to such a
Phillip said regardless of how much effort and detail is put into
cleaning up following a spill, the oil will remain in the environment
for decades. The notion the pipeline will create hundreds of jobs is
“Pipeline jobs are very specialized. There are people that are
involved in the pipeline industry, they travel all over the world,”
he said. “It’s not like you go down to your local labour (hall) and
pull 200 guys off the bench and say let’s go build a pipeline.”
Phillip said First Nations are willing to protest and rally against
the project but he’s more interested in whether or not the government
will override the joint review panel’s decision if it determines the
pipeline should not proceed. He noted that Prime Minister Stephen
Harper has already declared the project to be in the national
interests of Canadian citizens.
If it were to proceed, either through the approval process or
overridden by the federal government, it would probably end up in the
“The government of Canada can do a lot of things but they can’t just
simply abrogate or ignore the legal rights of indigenous peoples,” he
Wednesday: Dan Albas, Member of Parliament.