|Chief Jackie Thomas of Saik'uz First Nation speaks to the media during a press conference where First Nations representatives from Alberta and NWT signed the Save the Fraser Declaration opposing the proposed Enbridge Pipeline and Tankers project in Edmonton Friday Jan. 27, 2012. (DAVID BLOOM/QMI AGENCY)
EDMONTON — The Northern Gateway pipeline will never be built on their land, said the Dene First Nations.
“We will be the wall that Enbridge cannot break through,” said Saik’uz First Nation Chief Jackie Thomas following project hearings in Edmonton Friday.
The Dene Nation is made up of more than 30 bands spread across northern Alberta, B.C., and the Northwest Territories.
Nearly a dozen band members signed onto the “Save The Fraser” declaration Friday, pledging to protect the Dene water and lands from future industrialization, including the northern Gateway pipeline.
“We have used our indigenous laws to consider the pipeline and we have made our decision -- Enbridge will not be allowed to come through our territory,” said Thomas.
If approved, the 1,200 km line is set to cut right through Dene land in the B.C. interior.
Echoing the Swan River First Nation, who presented to the panel Thursday, band members fear further water contamination -- something they say is leading to the band’s high rate of stomach cancer.
“I’m afraid of Alberta as a whole because of the cumulative effect that goes into the water system,” said Liidlii Kue Chief Jim Antoine.
The declaration has signatures from more than 100 northern and western First Nations groups.
During hearings Friday, the Dene were repeatedly asked to refrain from testifying about cumulative environmental effects from area industrialization.
The panel said their mandate does not include hearing cumulative effects testimony, and any such information would not be taken into account when deciding the line’s fate.
“Why is cancer so high? Why are our people dying of cancer?” said Francois Paulette, a Dene Elder.
“You mentioned that you (panel) want to listen to traditional knowledge (but) traditional knowledge is just one aspect of a bigger picture.”
The line will cross numerous water ways, however, Enbridge will not have to make final decisions about what types of water crossings will be used until after the project is approved.