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Opponents gear up to battle Northern Gateway pipeline

Aboriginal concerns have been a key part of protests against the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, including this one at the B.C. legislature in October 2013. - Black Press files
Aboriginal concerns have been a key part of protests against the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, including this one at the B.C. legislature in October 2013.
— image credit: Black Press files

From Kitimat to Victoria, opponents are preparing to fight the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, after it was given federal approval Tuesday.

A group of B.C. aboriginal communities issued a statement Tuesday vowing to go to court to protect their aboriginal title and rights on the land affected by the twin pipeline and tanker port for diluted bitumen on Douglas Channel.

Aboriginal opponents in the North Coast region include the Haida, Gitgaat, Heiltsuk and Haisla First Nations, as well as communities in the B.C. Interior.

Haisla Chief Councillor Ellis Ross, whose community is at the end of Douglas Channel and who is involved in a natural gas export project, said it is too late for more consultations.

"Every mistake they've made we actually pointed out to them and said 'this is not following our case law principles, you're making a mistake'," Ross said Tuesday. "But they went ahead and did it. It is going to be court."

Northern Gateway project leader Janet Holder said she will continue to work to build on the 26 equity agreements the company has reached with aboriginal communities along the proposed pipeline route.

Kitimat Mayor Joanne Monaghan said her council has made its opposition clear, after an April community vote that came down opposed to the project.

"I think most of the councillors are of the opinion that they really don't want to see bitumen going down the channel," Monaghan said. "They would rather have it refined and have a product that's refined going down the channel."

B.C. NDP leader John Horgan said he wants resource development that creates jobs in B.C., particularly for aboriginal communities. Horgan said the B.C. Liberal government gave up its opportunity to oppose Northern Gateway.

B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak rejected that claim, saying the province gave a clear "no" in its final submission to the federal review panel.

Discussions with Alberta, Enbridge and oil producers continue to see if B.C.'s conditions for land and ocean protection as well as a "fair share" of benefits for B.C. can be met, Polak said.

– With files from Kitimat Northern Sentinel

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