After the approval of Northern Gateway in June 2014, community groups in Smithers and Terrace hosted small scale fundraisers to support First Nations legal challenges aimed at stopping it. These communities knew firsthand what was at stake, and the power of standing with First Nations. They approached RAVEN Trust and Sierra Club BC to create a campaign and challenged the rest of us to step up. Pull Together is a tangible way individuals, communities and businesses can provide financial support to First Nations and moral support to everyone on the front lines against Enbridge.
About the legal challenges
What is the legal basis of the court actions?
In September 2014, the Federal Court of Appeal granted leave to seven First Nations to apply for judicial review of the Northern Gateway pipeline project’s approval. Seven of those nations are now participating in the Pull Together campaign.
In seeking leave, they describe the potential impacts of the Enbridge project on their lands, water, and people and the infringement of their constitutionally protected rights and/or title. First Nations rights and title were significantly strengthened with the June 26, 2014 Tsilhqot’in declaration of Aboriginal title by the Supreme Court of Canada.
The affected First Nations detail a number of failures by the Crown in reviewing and approving the Enbridge Northern Gateway project. If the Federal Court of Appeal grants leave, the First Nations will argue that the federal government’s approval of the pipeline project be set aside or “quashed.”
Does this mean First Nations can’t carry legal challenges on their own?
First Nations made their own decision to launch legal challenges, knowing the costs that would be required. They are clearly prepared to do what it takes to stop Enbridge. However, legal challenges are expensive. The federal government has deep pockets and will spare no expense in defending its decision to approve Enbridge Northern Gateway.
It is not unusual for external legal defence funds to be used when parties of lesser means go up against governments or big corporations. While these First Nations could go it alone, standing together and pooling resources ensures equitable access to justice with a much more likely chance of success.
Haida Nation President of the Council Peter Lantin gave a detailed interview about the legal cases and the impact Pull Together is having on their community at our second phase kick off event.
About the First Nations
The Heiltsuk, Kitasoo-Xai’xais, Gitga’at, Haida, and Gitxaala Nations are located on BC’s central and north coast, along the proposed route of oil tankers. The Nadleh Whut’en and Nak’azdli Nations are in the northern interior of BC, along the proposed pipeline route. The proposed tanker routes also encroach on Haida marine territory.
Sharing a resolve to protect their lands and waters from oil spills, these nations are united in their opposition to Northern Gateway and their demand that indigenous rights and title be recognized.
These are small, remote, rural communities, taking a stand against a corporation and a government trying to push a pipeline and tankers on an unwilling province. They have courage and wisdom rooted in thousands of years of governance, and the strength of aboriginal title on their side. They are determined and willing to go it alone and do what it takes to protect their lands and communities.
In their words:
“If Northern Gateway goes ahead and if we have increased tanker traffic and if we have a tanker accident, we stand to lose a lot. It’s not only for First Nations people but it’s for everyone who uses sea resources, fisherman, sports fishermen, tourists, people that travel throughout our coast.” – Harvey Humchitt, Heiltsuk hereditary chief
“We’re a small community, we’re doing what we can to stop this project. We don’t have the resources that big corporations do, or the government has, so every little bit helps. We’re just so grateful for people helping. Every dollar that’s raised will help our communities and help our people take this stand.” — Marilyn Slett, elected chief, Heiltsuk Nation
“This Enbridge issue is not just a First Nations issue. It’s not just my community or the central coast or coastal BC, I think it’s all of our issue as British Columbians and as Canadians.” –Doug Neasloss, Kitasoo/Xai’xais Councillor and Resource Stewardship Department Director
About the campaign
What is the money needed for?
The funds will assist with the costs of legal research, expert science, legal argument writing, disbursements for days in court, and attendant costs such as court filing fees.
How is $25 going to help?
It’s simple: every little bit helps. In the first phase of our campaign (last six months of 2014) over 3,300 donors contributed, with many giving $25. Together that added up to $350,000.
Where does the money go?
The funds are being held in trust for the seven nations by RAVEN, an established Victoria-based legal defence fund with a focus on First Nation’s legal efforts. RAVEN stands for Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs. RAVEN will distribute funds equally between the nations involved. Ten per cent of the funds are held to cover the costs of running campaigns like this. As a non-profit, charitable organization, if costs are met then all remaining funds go into the pool toward the legal costs.
Can I donate to the other First Nations who have launched legal challenges?
Absolutely. Simply contact the nation you wish to support.
What is the advantage of donating through RAVEN?
RAVEN is a non-profit charitable organization that provides financial resources to assist First Nations within Canada in lawfully forcing industrial development to be reconciled with their traditional ways of life, and in a manner that addresses global warming or other ecological sustainability challenges. As RAVEN is a registered charity, it can issue tax receipts for your donations. As well, we are stronger when we work together and this fund’s success will show the depth and breadth of support for First Nation legal challenges aimed at protecting the natural environment for the benefit of all people within Canada.
Why is Sierra Club BC involved in this initiative?
One of Sierra Club BC key priorities is to stop the Enbridge pipeline and keep tankers our of the Great Bear Rainforest. In the wake of the federal decision to approve it, we made a decision to focus on two ways to stop it: to keep the pressure on Premier Clark to stand strong on her five conditions and continue to oppose the Enbridge Northern Gateway proposal; and to support First Nations legal challenges. First Nations are standing up for our common future, for the land and water and climate we all depend on.