Gitga'at evict Northern Gateway crew conducting spill response survey

HARTLEY BAY, B.C. – Members of the Gitga’at Nation say they have evicted a Northern Gateway Pipelines crew from their territory on the north coast of British Columbia as it tried to conduct oil spill response surveys.

The small First Nation of Hartley Bay says the crew showed up to carry out work on the project that has not been approved, and that the Gitga’at continue to oppose.

Coun. Marven Robinson said the band received a fax informing them that the crew would be coming to conduct an oil spill response survey.

The letter had no contact person, telephone number or email. They showed up without an invitation in the middle of the annual seaweed harvest that sees most band members camped out along the shoreline about 20 kilometres from the town, Robinson said.

“A few days later the boat showed up with crews,” Robinson said. “This is bad timing. All of our people are down at our seaweed harvesting camp.

“This is really a lack of consultation.”

A spokesman for Enbridge said the letter was sent May 3, and the crew proceeded to the band council offices, Ivan Giesbrecht said.

“We arrived in the community and two of our team members introduced themselves at the band council office and let them know we were in the area, and if anybody had any questions, feel free to come and speak to us,” he said.

“At the invitation of the Gitga’at, we met with them for approximately 30 minutes, had a very cordial meeting, and at the end of it, we followed their wishes and we respectfully left the area.”

There may have been a miscommunication about the visit, said Giesbrecht, and there was discussion about future meetings.

“It is important information. These are issues that have been raised throughout the joint review panel and we certainly hope we can continue to visit communities in the area, and certainly Hartley Bay, to gather more information,” he said.

Consultation with native bands has been a major stumbling block for the $6-billion project proposed by Calgary-based Enbridge (TSX:ENB) to connect the Alberta oil sands to the B.C. coast and then on to Asian markets.

Many in the industry are hopeful that a surprise Liberal victory in B.C.’s provincial election this week renews hope that the much-maligned project may yet go ahead.

But the adversarial nature of questioning undertaken by Northern Gateway lawyers earlier this month at the federal review hearings in Prince Rupert has further strained the already tense relations between the company and the few First Nations willing to participate in the process.

Robinson said the cross-examination was disrespectful.

“We spent a lot of money going through that process,” said Robinson, who said the Gitga’at did not accept money from either Enbridge or the government to participate.

“I was really disgusted.

“If you look back at all the times Enbridge officials, John Carruthers and the others, when they came to Hartley Bay, we respected them. We didn’t treat them badly just because they were part of Enbridge.”

The federal review panel weighing the project will begin hearing final arguments next month in Terrace, and must issue its report to the federal government by the end of the year.