Pipeline in Fraser River watershed hotly contested by opposition

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VANCOUVER, BC, Canada, Dec. 2, 2010 -- Sixty-one Indigenous Nations have come together in a historic alliance to protect the Fraser River watershed and to declare their opposition to the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline.

Signed in Williams Lake last week, and published in a full page ad in the Globe and Mail today, the "Save the Fraser Gathering of Nations" declaration is based on Indigenous law and authority, and it states:

We will not allow the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines, or similar Tar Sands projects, to cross our lands, territories and watersheds, or the ocean migration routes of Fraser River salmon.

The declaration is the second major First Nations declaration banning tar sands pipelines from BC this year, and it makes clear the nations see the federal review process for the project as a violation of their laws and rights under international law, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Canada signed last month.

"The Enbridge pipeline would risk an oil spill into our rivers and lands that would destroy our food supply, our livelihoods and our cultures," said Chief Larry Nooski of Nadleh Whut'en First Nation, part of the Yinka Dene Alliance opposed to the Enbridge project. "Our laws do not permit crude oil pipelines into our territories. This project isn't going anywhere."

From the headwaters of the Fraser, to its mouth at the Pacific ocean, nations along the watershed say critical salmon runs would be threatened by a proposed 700,000 barrels per day of crude oil and toxic hydrocarbons crossing the top of the Fraser watershed as proposed.

"St'at'imc territories are downstream of the proposed pipeline, putting our communities at risk," said Chief Art Adolph of Xaxli'p, a community of the St'at'imc nation whose territories cover the middle and southern parts of the Fraser watershed. "An oil spill into the Fraser River could be devastating for our people. Since time immemorial the river provides for us, and we have an obligation to protect it."

"Oil spills from the Enbridge pipelines would be inevitable," said Chief Jackie Thomas of Saik'uz First Nation. "That risk to our livelihoods is unacceptable. Enbridge has spills all over North America, including the big Michigan spill earlier this year. We refuse to be next."

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