Haida Nation leader outraged over “libelous” Enbridge documents
Haida Nation Council president Guujaaw says Enbridge documents falsely suggest the company is building "relationships" with Haida groups.
The president of the Haida Nation Council, Guujaaw, was shocked when he saw his organization’s name on Enbridge documents submitted to the Joint Review Panel for hearings on the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline.
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In December, he sent a letter via email to the company – and to the panel – requesting that the Haida groups listed be removed from the documents. Since then, Guujaaw says he hasn’t received any response from Enbridge, and he and others from Haida Gwaii are very unhappy with the company’s claims.
“There’s a fairly extensive list,” Guujaaw explained, “that would give the impression that there’s a lot of support out there amongst the First Nations.”
However, he said that recent events and a growing group of outspoken leaders are proof that First Nations support for the pipeline is minimal, if there’s any support at all.
“There’s nobody," he said. "Including the Gitxsan, who seem to have been shut down for attempting to [negotiate] – shut down by their own people."
Members of the Gitxsan Nation formed blockade last month, after negotiators from the Gitxsan Treaty Society made a much-disputed deal with Enbridge. Their experience with the controversial agreement has been seen as a signal of the strong opposition among Aboriginal communities, particularly since 130 nations across B.C. signed the Save the Fraser Declaration vowing to protect unceded territories from the pipeline.
Guujaaw pointed out that the Haida Nation is also a signatory on the declaration.
In his letter of complaint, reported in a Vancouver Sun blog and local Haida Gwaii publication the QCI Observer, Guujaaw said Enbridge submitted false claims about engaging in “relationship building” with the coastal First Nation.
"Enbridge has provided deliberately misleading and false information claiming that [it] has built relationships with the Haida Fisheries Program, Haida Development Corporation and Haida Child and Family Services,” Guujaaw said in an email to the Joint Review Panel dated Dec. 20.
"We would like to have all these names stricken from Enbridge's files [and] documents as it is libelous bringing these organizations into disrepute, not only with their own constituents, but also the many First Nations, organizations and people committed to the health of this planet."
Guujaaw says the First Nation has not been involved in any sort of “relationship” with Enbridge, and says these claims are particularly troubling to Haida groups as they have been strongly opposed to the project since the beginning.
“We’re a people living on an island, who still hold onto our culture and still gather from the land,” Guujaaw said.
“So basically if there’s anything that would get unanimous support, it’s a fight against something that would threaten those things that we hold so dear to us.”
Guujaaw said he suspects there are other Aboriginal groups that may not even realize they’re listed in Enbridge documents – groups he says would “certainly not consider themselves to be engaged” with the company.
“To list them as some kind of partner or some kind of engaged group, it puts them in a bad light,” he said, “amongst our own people for one thing, but also amongst other people who are working hard to stop this.”
Guujaaw also made note of another non-aboriginal group mentioned in the Enbridge document – Haida Gwaii Community Futures – which he said “had no idea how they got on the list”.
Art Lew, general manager at Haida Gwaii Community Futures, said he assumes his organization’s name will soon be removed from Northern Gateway documents.
“We are certainly not in any way, shape or form in support of Enbridge and what they’re doing,” he said.
“We have been striving very hard, at my level and right up to the president of the Haida Nation, to intervene in this to try to get this changed.”
Both Lew and Guujaaw are signed up to take part in upcoming public hearings conducted the Joint Review Panel. The hearings begin today in Kitimat and will reach Haida Gwaii at the end of February. Over 4,000 parties are expected to speak.
Enbridge spokesperson Paul Stanway said the company has received Guujaaw’s letter and is aware of the Haida complaints.
“We have made a number of attempts to engage with residents of Haida Gwaii. The claims made in the letter do not accurately reflect either the facts or the spirit of this attempted engagement,” said Stanway.
“The extensive consultations we have engaged in as part of the Northern Gateway project application are detailed in our filings with the NEB, which are a matter of public record and are available on the NEB website.”
The documents available through the online public registry (Vol. 5 update) describe Enbridge’s correspondence with the Council of the Haida Nation, including attempts to discuss the project with representatives from the Skidegate Band and Old Masset Village Council.
The documents confirm both groups’ opposition to the project, noting their concerns and explaining that the Council had refused to participate in meetings about the project. But for Guujaaw, it’s a problem that the Haida name is listed at all.
“We’re not trying to develop a relationship,” he said about Enbridge’s attempts to discuss the pipeline.
“We wouldn’t want a relationship with them – not on this file. Not on a thing that creates so much risk to our livelihoods.”