The Nuxalk First Nation has withdrawn from the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project Joint Review Panel process.
The First Nation, from the Bella Coola valley, has decided not to participate further in the process, due to what they say is “predetermined approval” by the federal government of the proposed pipeline to carry Alberta tar sands bitumen from Alberta to Kitimat, B.C. via two 1,170 km pipelines.
The elected chief and council released a statement on the withdrawal saying it was through the advisement of hereditary chiefs and elders the Nation decided to no longer participate in the process.
The statement also calls into question the entire review process and the lack of engagement with First Nations groups, indicating many First Nations did not sign up to participate in the process to start with.
“There is no honour in the federal Crown’s approach to consulting with First Nations on the Enbridge project,” says Andrew Andy, the elected Chief of the Nuxalk Nation. “Recent statements make it clear that the Prime Minister has already decided to approve the super-tanker project that would violate First Nations’ Title and Rights and put our coastal waters at risk of a major oil spill.”
The statement also cited remarks made by the Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver in which he referred to First Nations communities as “socially dysfunctional.”
The statement came after the budget introduced by the Conservative government included a retroactive time limit on environmental review processes, which could potentially see the current review sped up significantly under a two-year total time limit.
If approved, the time limit could see the three-person panel to come to a decision this year. The current schedule has the first portion of the community hearings for oral statements continuing into July and further hearings for communities not on the pipeline continuing into next year before a decision would be made later in 2013.
But at this point it is too soon to say how this might impact the process.
“Right now the panel is continuing with the mandate they’ve been given,” said Kirsten Higgins, communications officer with the National Energy Board.
Higgins also reiterated the panel and review process are “independent and transparent.”