Gitga’at First Nation evicts Northern Gateway crew conducting spill response survey
The Gitga’at First Nation says it was treated disrespectfully by the Enbridge pipeline company after a team of oil spill response surveyors came uninvited onto their territory at Hartley Bay this week.
Enbridge communications manager Ivan Giesbrecht said they did send a crew to Hartley Bay Tuesday but had notified the band office by a faxed letter on May 3rd.
He said that letter would have been on Enbridge letterhead with contact information available.
“The reason for us being there was to conduct visual surveys of the bay toward marine emergency safety planning. Out of respect to them we wanted to let them know we would be in the area,” said Giesbrecht.
Coun. Marven Robinson said the band was upset because they were not asked, but told, that Enbridge planned to send a survey team to their territory.
Giesbrecht agreed that permission wasn’t sought from the First Nation but noted the “dock is open to mariners” and their crew came by boat. He said they went up to the band office to let them know they were there and if anyone had any questions would speak with them about their visit, which lasted about one hour.
“At their (the band’s) invitation, our team met with them for 30 minutes. It was a cordial meeting,” said Giesbrecht, who added they left immediately when asked to go.
Robinson said he asked the Enbridge workers why they came to Hartley Bay, an isolated village only accessible by boat or plane about 390 miles north of Vancouver. He was told they were doing work in advance of the Northern Gateway pipeline being approved.
“Why are they doing that when the (review) process is still happening?” he said.
Robinson said he attended the public hearings about the pipeline before the Joint Review Panel in Prince Rupert last March, and was dismayed to hear an oil spill on the coast was inevitable.
“They (the Enbridge team) came during our spring harvest when . . . when we catch spring salmon, halibut, cod, seal. This is our culture, our way of life is being threatened. We’re not going to allow tankers to come through our territory.”
Robinson said this isn’t the first time Enbridge has come onto their territory without seeking permission.
He said a few years ago Enbridge set up a weather monitoring station near one of their villages.
“We’re not putting up with that anymore,” he said.
Giesbrecht said Northern Gateway installed six weather stations in late 2005 to better understand the meteorological data for areas where such data was lacking, one of which was at Wright Sound, near Hartley Bay.
Gitga’at has approximately 700 members, of which about 200 people still live on reserve in Hartley Bay.
Consultation with native bands has been a major stumbling block for the $6-billion Northern Gateway project that would connect the Alberta oil sands 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.
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.