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YDA moves Northern Gateway protest to Alberta’s Legislature
Chiefs of the Yinka Dene Alliance of British Columbia, who gathered on the steps of the Alberta Legislature on May 2 and spoke out against Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline, were not joined by Alberta chiefs.
It was not a slight, said Eriel Deranger, who moderated the day’s activities, but a conflict in scheduling. She said many Alberta chiefs took part in the feast the night before but could not join in the press conference or the march that took about 70 protestors to the Enbridge building on Jasper avenue in downtown Edmonton.
“My chief is in full support,” said Deranger who is a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. She said she had been given permission by Chief Allan Adam to speak on his behalf. “He has signed on to the Save the Fraser Declaration, totally supports the Yinka Dene, puts forward to commit with them in their fight against the Northern Gateway Pipeline. (He said) we see their struggle as our struggle. It’s one and the same. Tarsands expansion and development is fueling the very controversy of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline.”
Deranger pointed out that the ACFN is legally challenging two proposed projects by Shell Canada, which alone would produce “more than enough tarsands oil to fill the Northern Gateway Enbridge pipeline.”
The “union and solidarity of the First Nations,” said Deranger, was symbolized in a water ceremony, performed by an Elder, who took the water brought from each First Nations territory and mixed them to together. Water from the Athabasca River was mixed with water from the Fraser River, as well as a number of river heads.
YDA chiefs and representatives spoke out strongly against what they referred to as Enbridge’s lack of consultation and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s poor environmental stewardship. They also stressed their own roles as keepers of what Mother Earth has provided: water, land, and air.
“I stand on the steps of the Alberta legislature to tell the people of Alberta that this pipeline will not happen,” said Hereditary Chief Na’Moks, of the Tsaya Clan, Wet’suwet’en. “The premier of Alberta, the message is very clear from all of us…. Our people will be here forever because we said no (to the Northern Gateway pipeline). We’re not just speaking for ourselves, we’re speaking for the future generations.”
The next generation was represented by 11-year-old Ta’Kaiya Blaney, from the Sliammon Nation near Powell River. Ta’Kaiya took the microphone and spoke passionately for her cause, accusing Harper of not caring that there are more Indigenous people opposed to the pipeline than in support of it and noting that under the Royal Proclamation of 1763, consent of First Nations is required for the pipeline to cross traditional lands. “It’s a consent they’re not going to get,” she said to a cheering crowd. “Our culture … is so much more valuable than those dollar bills they keep waving in our faces. Our culture is more than priceless. It is sacred and we won’t be sold out.”
April Churchill, vice president of the Haida Nation, also slammed Harper, accusing the federal government of infringing on inherited Aboriginal rights, the Canadian Constitution, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“For the benefit of a handful of people Harper is willing to sacrifice ancient cultures, ancient people, your water, your food, our food,” said Churchill.
“We stand together as Aboriginal people in Canada (to) make sure that the lands are protected for the future of our children and your children,” said Chief Martin Louie, of the Nadieh Whut’en.
While Alberta’s First Nations chiefs were not on the steps of the Legislature, they have not been quiet in voicing their concerns about the project. Hearings conducted by the Joint Review Panel for Northern Gateway earlier this year were attended by chiefs of northern First Nations. As well, ACFN is not the only local First Nation to have signed the Save the Fraser Declaration.
“There’s an actual deep-rooted connection of the tarsands, the pipeline. (They) are all of the same struggle,” said Deranger. “It’s fighting tarsands expansion on the grounds of our treaty rights, our rights to protect the waters, the rivers, the animals and the livelihood of our Nations.”
What has been called the “freedom train” saw about 40 peopleleaving their traditional lands in British Columbia and taking a bus to Jasper. From there the group traveled to Edmonton and then on to Saskatoon and Winnipeg before rallying outside Enbridge’s annual general meeting on May 9 in Toronto.
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