First nations leaders signed an indigenous legal declaration on Thursday, banning pipelines and oil tanker traffic in British Columbia in a further attempt to halt Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway project.

 The Save the Fraser Declaration, signed by 130 first nations and presented by National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Shawn Atleo, reiterated growing opposition to construction of new pipelines in the province.

The Northern Gateway project would bring half a million barrels of oil per day from Alberta’s oilsands to a port in Kitimat for shipment to Asian markets. It is supported by the federal government, but highly controversial in B.C.

“I’ve been given a mandate by my community to use all means necessary to stop this project,” said Chief Jackie Thomas of the Saik’uz First Nation and Yinka Dene Alliance, a coalition of six first nations that have banned Enbridge from their territories.

“We will use legal means here in Canada as well as internationally. We have declared our own law, and I pledged my life when I signed that declaration in Williams Lake (where the coalition was born in 2010),” Thomas said.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said his organization would provide unconditional support to opponents of Northern Gateway, as well as other energy projects including the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain extension that would twin an existing pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby.

“We are instructed through our chiefs and their communities to offer political support and legal support, and if necessary, to link arms on the front line,” Stewart said.

Some legal precedents do exist for a declaration of indigenous law, including a 1990 Supreme Court of Canada decision setting out criteria to determine whether infringement on aboriginal rights protected by Section 35 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was justifiable. This summer, the B.C. Court of Appeal affirmed that the rights of the Tsilhqot’in people of the Chilcotin region had been infringed by the forestry industry, and left the door open to a Supreme Court battle over aboriginal title of the land.

But a declaration of indigenous law cannot trump federal processes, said Elizabeth Edinger, a University of B.C. law professor and constitutional expert.

Many of the first nations involved never signed treaties with the Crown, and assert aboriginal title to their land, so the government has a duty to consult with them over major resource projects. That consultation process is supervised by the courts, and if first nations groups perceive a failure to consult, they can seek a judicial review, Edinger said.

But under legislation introduced this year, the federal government has final decision-making authority, and “if the cabinet decides it should be done, I suspect it will be done.”

One legal expert said if the Harper government declares the Northern Gateway pipeline to be in the “national interest,” the case becomes more complex.

It’s not clear whether Canadian courts would consider themselves constrained by the new law, or how they would decide if a constitutional fight ensues, said Gordon Christie, director of the Indigenous Legal Studies program at UBC.

But a winning strategy might be to delay the project through the court system, he said.

“If you tie it up long enough it becomes unattractive to industry,” he said. “It’s a matter of time and resources. They have enough to probably tie this up for a long time,” he said, recalling the Mackenzie River pipeline that took over three decades to resolve and has been all but abandoned.

Besides the fact that the federal government has near-endless financial resources to pour into a court challenge, it’s also recognized as ultimately having the right to infringe upon aboriginal rights, Christie said.

“The government could probably win that battle, but that could be five or 10 years from now. It’s probably enough time for the first nations to win in the sense they can stop the project.”

Also at Thursday’s press conference, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson announced Save the Fraser Declaration Day in the city.

“These projects are clearly part of a future that is frightening and unsustainable,” Robertson said.

Chief John Ridsdale of the Wet'Suwet'en is seen during a signing ceremony Thursday as first nations leaders sign the Save the Fraser Declaration in downtown Vancouver. The declaration is an indigenous law banning tar sands and pipelines and tankers from crossing British Columbia. (Jonathan Hayward /THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Gabe George, Tsleil-Waututh Nation Traditional Speaker

Responses to "First nations leaders sign declaration banning pipelines, oil tankers in B.C."

  1. nakemo says:

    I support you in Spirit

  2. Featherstone says:

    I pray for you all as I pray for all of us that you are successful! Blessings to you all! WADO!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Greetings and moral support from the "indigenous Frenchmen" opposing the frackers in France. We have a common ennemy and the common goal of protecting Mother Earth from greedy insanity. Over here, we are holding the frackers at bay for the present but know they won't give up as long as there is money to be made out of wrecking the land. Perseverance is needed and more and more people are becoming aware of the peril ou home planet is in.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I'm so very grateful for the stand you are making! I know it will benefit everyone. I'm sending Blessings and Prayers to all of you who dedicate yourselves to this effort.

    Sue Ostapowich from Manitoba

  5. Unknown says:

    if the federal gov't of Canada would just look at the ability of the auto industry to use electric or another alternative to gas we wouldn't be fighting with them about this. Oil will become obsolete in time and the big oil companies have to start wrapping their heads around this and stop pillaging the resources at the expense of the environment and the people that rely on the forests and the ocean to survive and live.

  6. Anonymous says:

    ♥♥♥ "The freedom from fear is immortality." Jiddu Krishnamurti ♥♥♥

  7. Anonymous says:

    Hold is the only way! ...A tsunami of blessings coming your way! :)

  8. Anonymous says:

    The premier of BC does oppose the pipeline but for the wrong reason. She wants a share of the 'money' and there is absolutely no mention of the damage it could do to the ecological system.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for leading the way. We all need to get together to fight these projects

  10. Anonymous says:

    I'm sorry but there is nothing that will stop these murderers .they only believe in power terrorism and blood shed..keep the's all we have left in our dieing world PEACE BROTHERS

  11. Unknown says:

    It Is All Of Our Responsibility To Look After Our Mother Earth.... Thank You All For Doing Your Part. What You Are All Doing Benefits All Of This World And Our Future. You Light The Path So Bright That Other's May Now Follow <3 :D

  12. Anonymous says:

    As long as we stand together & oppose what is wrong, we will win...

  13. Anonymous says:

    Thank you First Nations for standing up and protecting B.C, I am especially grateful not only because I live there, but because you are also protecting the wildlife, the forests and the oceans that I couldn't live without. You are setting a beautiful example for the rest of us to follow, truly heros.

    -- Shaunna

  14. Anonymous says:


  15. Anonymous says:

    Reading this made my day.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Hopefully this will extend the court battles till AFTER we get the chance to vote that scum Mr. Harper out of office.

    He is undoing everything, EVERYTHING that makes me proud about Canada. All the way from the way we treat minorities, to a dignified government service, to our democratic system, to our progressive mentality, to our peaceful ways, to our devotion to our land.

    What will Canada be left with? Oil pipelines, mega-jails, felony pot smokers, flattened mountains/ dirtied rivers, dismantlement of unions, and a super-majority government that can pass an undisclosed amount of policies in one, rushed, bill, in order to evade the democratic system.

    Im not telling you who to vote for. Just for the love of all that is Canadian, our heritage, our people, our land, DO NOT VOTE HARPER.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Understand what you are fighting for - the right to drink water without having to buy it from someone!

  18. Anonymous says:

    I am from Wetsueten Territories,born and raised on wildlife, fish and ocean food, we survived off the land, the water, our resources made me so happy to see the Native nation get together, and work together, against pipelines, oh yeah

  19. Anonymous says:

    Ça fait des années que nous devrions conduire des voitures électriques...le gouvernement préfère mettre les dossiers en filière de nos grand inventeurs et ingénieurs sur le sujet et préfère ainsi catastropher notre nature !!!

  20. Anonymous says:

    Awesome! Time to stop the whiteman in his tracks! As we all know he doesn't go very far without his or others oil. Too lazy!

  21. Anonymous says:

    This is absolutely ridiculous!!

  22. Anonymous says:

    Harper is doing what he wants to do; doing what your doing is only going to make matters worse, yes I don't agree with Harper's decision, & I find it unfair, but because of his actions doesn't mean all the white ppl are to blame!

  23. Anonymous says:

    We are approaching an ecological crisis point world-wide, where people out of the need to escape species extinct will have to physically fight back against those who are destroying the earth. We are ignoring all the warning signs like the melting of the icecaps, climate change, deforestration, poisoning of the oceans and fresh water sources, and a 1000 more serious problems. At what point will the majority of our species recognize the danger we are in?

  24. Anonymous says:

    I have been with Occupy Calgary since the beginning . I firmly believe , First Nations should have jurisdiction over all of Canada and its resourses . All First Nations Chiefs should have seats in the house of commons . We will continue the fight for Freedom of People and Mother Earth ! Merry Christmas and Best Wishes in the New Year ( Hopefully New World ) !!!

  25. Anonymous says:

    I don't approve of what the government is doing....I am with you all the way...Don't back down!!!

  26. Anonymous says:

    ?Is there a way to offer monitary support for their efforts

  27. Thank you for standing up for your people ... as an inpacted citizen by the 2010 ENBRIDGE spill here in Michigan .. BRAVO

  28. Anonymous says:

    .... how do they heat their houses? How do their generators run to provide electricity to their houses? Did I miss all the reserves converting to solar, hydro and wind power? But I guess thats ok out in parts of BC where it doesn't get down to -51 C. I'm pretty sure that the people up in BigTroutLake, ON might not have the same view of "big bad oil" since many people rely on it to have reliable heating and what not. Pretty sure that without shipping out some oil to make profits, "big bad oil" wouldn't be able to keep the price affordable in our country. We would have alot harder time maintaining the system we have right now which relies on oil to do alot of things. Like ship goods into the NW Ontario reserves, people up here rely on oil products to survive, without it we would be living like it was the 19th century still. Oil lets us have a modern life in our own remote communities. Progress is always hard but to support the growing population the government needs tax dollars created by industry. Oil is one of our biggest industries in Canada. We should support responsible development of our resources to create more jobs, not stand in the way of progress. All this protesting solves nothing, if you are not providing a solution, YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM.

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