The Gitga'at First Nation Is Protecting Its Way of Life From Oil Tankers and an Unlawful Environmental Assessment

Judicial review challenge alleges Enbridge Joint Review Panel breached the honour of the crown in its dealings with the Gitga’at First Nation. VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA (January 22, 2014) - The Federal government cannot proceed directly to approve the Northern Gateway pipeline because a recent Joint Review Panel assessment did not meet its constitutional obligations to First Nations, according to a judicial review application filed with the Federal Court of Appeal.

The application was filed by lawyers for the Gitga’at First Nation who say the Joint Review Panel erred in law, including by failing to properly consider all evidence provided by the Gitga’at, whose culture and way of life would be severely threatened by supertanker traffic, shipping bitumen from Alberta and importing condensate from Asia and elsewhere.

“The JRP came to our community and we bared our souls to them,” says Arnold Clifton, Chief Councilor for the Gitga’at First Nation. “We gave testimony and shared an important feast with them to demonstrate our connection with our territory through food. Clearly they didn’t listen to us. It’s like they were never here.”

Gitga’at traditional lands and waters encompass 7,500 square kilometres, including all approach routes for ships transiting to and from the Port of Kitimat. The Gitga’at have never surrendered their aboriginal rights or title.

“Today we’re fighting an unlawful environmental assessment and review process that failed to meet its constitutional obligations to First Nations,” said Clifton. “We owe it to our children to defend our rights, our coastal communities and our way of life from the dangers of oil tanker traffic.”

The application states that while the Gitga’at are resilient, they are also highly vulnerable to threats to their local ecosystems and community wellbeing from impacts cause by increased tanker traffic. The negative impacts to Gitga’at society, culture, identity, health, and economy will only increase in the event of an oil spill, with the impacts increasing with the size and consequences of the spill.

Traditional foods harvested from the sea comprise the largest portion of the Gitga’at diet.

High Definition B-roll footage available upon request.

Contact Information:

Andrew Frank Communications Officer Gitga’at First Nation 604-367-2112