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AUDIO: Wet’suwet’en resistance to the Gateway pipeline

Toghestiy, hereditary chief of the Likhts’amisyu (Fireweed) Clan, Mel Bazil, Lhe Lin Liyin (the Wet’suwet’en Warrior Society) co-founder, and Freda Huson, Unist’ot’en (People of the Headwaters) spokesperson, spoke about their resistance to the proposed Enbridge pipeline through their territory at a public forum at the Rhizome Cafe in Vancouver last night. Several Council of Canadians chapter activists from across British Columbia (Coast Salish Territory) were present to hear what they had to say about their struggle.

These Wet’suwet’en First Nation members are part of In May 2010, Enbridge requested that the National Energy Board approve their proposal to construct the Northern Gateway Pipeline, two 1,200-kilometre underground pipelines. One pipeline would move 525,000 barrels a day of bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands region to Kitimat on the coast of the Pacific Ocean (to then be transported by 225 super tankers a year to Asia with a third to a half going to the United States), the other would move 193,000 barrels a day of condensate, which is used to dilute the bitumen from the tar sands so that it can flow through the pipelines. The federal government’s review of the project is expected to be completed by 2012, construction would begin in 2013, and the bitumen and condensate would flow by 2016.

Also last May, the Wet’suwet’en established a camp directly in the proposed path of the pipeline. That July, Council of Canadians British Columbia-Yukon organizer Harjap Grewal attended a five-day gathering to inaugurate the camp and to participate in discussions with others strategies to stop the pipeline. A second gathering at the camp is now being planned for this coming August.

Chief Jackie Thomas, chief of the Saik’uz First Nation, is also opposed to the pipeline. The Saik’uz were one of the First Nations of the Yinka Dene Alliance that rejected an offer from Enbridge for $1.5-billion in cash, jobs, business opportunities over the next 30 years as well as a 10 per cent stake in the project. In February 2011, Thomas said, “I value my fish and water more than I value money. If my grandchild has to buy water, and have water shipped in, it’s not good.” That water include the hundreds of waterways the pipelines would cross, including the Nechako River, a tributary to the salmon-bearing Fraser River.

Thomas has also expressed solidarity with the Chipewyan, Cree and Metis people of Fort Chipewyan, directly impacted by the tar sands. She says, “They can’t drink their water and eat their fish. So if this pipeline goes through, this oil sands will just get bigger, there is going to be more problems. And who is going to look after them?”

The Yinka Dene Alliance includes the Wet’suwet’en, Saik’uz, Whut’en, Nak’azdli, and Takla Lake First Nations.The Haida, Hasla, Gitga and other First Nations have also stated that “oil tankers carrying crude oil from the Alberta tar sands will not be allowed to transit” their lands or waters.

To hear the presentation by Toghestiy, Mel Bazil and Freda Huson, go to http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/audio/voices-wetsuweten-resistance/6978.