A B.C. indigenous declaration opposing pipelines and tankers in the province gained three new signatories today (December 13), as Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson proclaimed the day “Save the Fraser Declaration Day”.
More than a dozen leaders, including National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, gathered in downtown Vancouver to mark the anniversary this month of the Save the Fraser Declaration, which has now been signed by over 130 bands.
The Tahltan Central Council, Tahltan Band Council and the B.C. Métis Federation added their names to the declaration, which was announced by the Yinka Dene Alliance in December 2010.
“Who’d have thought this alliance would grow to such a big thing when we first got together in Williams Lake,” said Chief Jackie Thomas of the Saik’uz First Nation, one of the six bands that formed the alliance. “There was a few concerned people, and now we do have an unbreakable wall.”
Thomas told reporters she has been given the mandate by her community to “use all means necessary to stop this project”, referring to the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project.
“We will use the legal means here in Canada as well as internationally,” she said.
In reading today’s proclamation from the City of Vancouver, Robertson noted that city council passed a resolution in May 2012 to “strenuously oppose” any increase in oil tanker traffic.
“We have grave concerns about the impacts of massive fossil fuel expansion across this province, affecting our waterways, and most important of which the Fraser River, which has given life to countless generations here in this place,” he said.
Atleo said the Assembly of First Nations’ role is supporting indigenous communities that are giving expression to their aboriginal title and rights.
“No longer is anyone out there allowed to tell us what is good for us,” he said. “We will stand with you as you say no to what is being proposed in your territories.”
Jody Wilson-Raybould, the regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations in B.C., said First Nations have been "galvanized" since the initial signing of the declaration.
“It has galvanized our First Nations around the recognition that we must be consulted, we must provide the free, prior and informed consent to any major resource industrial projects that happen within our territories, whether it be the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, whether it be the Site C dam in northwestern British Columbia, whether it be the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, or the so-called new Prosperity mines, we as First Nations in this province and in this country stand together to protect our environment.”
The Save the Fraser Declaration opposes oilsands pipelines through the Fraser watershed and the ocean migration routes of Fraser River salmon.
The signatories argue that a federal government decision to allow the Enbridge Northern Gateway project to proceed would infringe on their title and rights and breach Canada’s obligations under international law. Hearings for the proposed pipeline are taking place in Prince Rupert this week.