Haisla Nation Chief Councillor Ellis Ross speaks in Kitimat June 17.

Haisla eyes court battles over federal government’s ‘yes’ decision on Northern Gateway

Haisla Chief Councillor Ellis Ross said his nation will battle the Northern Gateway proposal in court.

A decision has been made and the federal government has approved the Joint Review Panel’s recommendations on the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines proposal.

The government made the announcement around 2 p.m. PST.

The decision will allow the National Energy Board to issue the Certificates of Public Convenience and Necessity.

“After carefully reviewing the report, the Government accepts the independent Panel’s recommendation to impose 209 conditions on Northern Gateway Pipelines’ proposal,” said Canada’s Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford in a news release.

The decision will certainly lead to court challenges. Haisla Chief Councillor Ellis Ross, who leads the community at the head of the Douglas Channel where Northern Gateway would flow diluted bitumen to, said court is the next step.

“We’ve actually made the decision back in 2009 that if our Rights and Title case law principles aren’t abided by than we have no choice but to go to court,” he said, saying the experience so far is that Canada has not been following rights and title case law. “Not only on our own but in partnership with other First Nations.”

On the possibility of consultation at this point, he said it would be too late. The government had been warned on the implications, he said.

“Every mistake they’ve made we actually pointed out to them and said ‘this is not following case law principles. You’re making a mistake, you shouldn’t do this.’ But they went ahead and did it,” he said. “It is going to be court. It has to be court.”

Meanwhile District of Kitimat Mayor Joanne Monaghan said she doesn’t foresee much more municipal involvement in opposing the pipeline beyond their actions following the April plebiscite.

She said the council has communicated with levels of government the community’s decision in a plebiscite which saw a majority of people oppose the project. Kitimat Council since officially opposed the project as well.

“I think that’s where that ends,” she said. “I think most of the councillors are of the opinion they really don’t want to see bitumen going down the channel, they would rather have it refined and have a product that’s refined going down the channel.”

Douglas Channel Watch members in Kitimat meanwhile are not surprised by the federal government’s decision. But they’re confident that Prime Minister Stephen Harper will feel the effects of his decision.

“I think politically now he’s going to find out what the people of B.C. feel and that we are not going to support this government in the next election,” said Douglas Channel Watch’s newest member Patricia Lange. “Douglas Channel Watch will stand with the Haisla, with the other First Nations across the route and in coastal B.C.”

She said the issue of Northern Gateway isn’t going away and hopes that Premier Christy Clark will stick to her five conditions, although Lange noted with the approval of the project by the federal government, one point of Clark’s five has been fulfilled.

“So many groups around B.C. have taken hope from the fact that our little community, the most likely to say yes to this project, resoundingly voted no,” she added, referring to the April plebiscite and subsequent council position on the project. “We represent to the rest of B.C. a lot of hope that this town said no. People believe now that this project can be stopped.”

She hopes the District of Kitimat will stand behind the Haisla Nation as they embark on legal challenges to the Northern Gateway project.