Lake Babine Nation Chief, Wilf Adam recently expressed his anger over a deal struck between the Gitxsan Treaty Office and Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines.
As reported in the Lakes District News edition of Dec. 7, 2011, Gitxsan Hereditary Chief Elmer Derrick, on behalf of the Hereditary Chiefs and the Gitxsan Nation publicly announced the Enbridge deal on Dec. 2, 2011.
Since details of the deal were made public, members of the Gitxsan Nation, including a number of Hereditary Chiefs have protested outside the Gitxsan Treaty Office in Old Hazelton, blockading the entrance to the office.
Lake Babine Nation was also quick to react to the news. Chief Adam, speaking on behalf of Lake Babine Nation, demanded an apology from the Gitxsan Treaty Office for making the deal with Enbridge.
Lake Babine Nation say the deal, that would see the Gitxsan receive a 10 per cent equity share in the pipeline, amounting to more than $7 million in net profits, infringes on their traditional territory.
“The Gitxsan Treaty Office has shown incredible disrespect for their neighbouring First Nations and Lake Babine Nation demands an immediate apology and a commitment to consult with us in the future,” Chief Adam said.
They are also seeking a formal retraction and apology from the Gitxsan Treaty Office for the statements their chief negotiator, Hereditary Chief Elmer Derrick gave to the media on Dec. 2, 2011.
In his statement, Chief Derrick described the five streams that flow into Babine Lake as well as the salmon they support as an important resource to the Gitxsan.
Chief Adam declared, “The streams, Babine Lake and the salmon resources they support, are all within the territory of Lake Babine Nation. These are Lake Babine Nation’s resources, not the Gitxsan Treaty Office’s. Neither Mr.. Derrick, nor the Gitxsan Treaty Office has any right to speak to anyone about our resources or the way that they may be developed.”
He said the deal was made without consulting with the Lake Babine Nation.
“The pipeline will not cross Gitxsan territory. They will not bear any of the risks or the costs. It is us, along with the other Nations through whose territories the tar sands oil will be transported, who will suffer the consequences. It is us, who stand to lose our resources and our way of life.”
Chief Adam said that by supporting Enbridge’s proposed pipeline, the Gitxsan Treaty Office has potentially encouraged an infringement upon Lake Babine Nation’s rights and title and they have done so without any prior consultation.
Lake Babine Nation was unaware that the Gitxsan Treaty Office were striking a deal with Enbridge.
“We were not aware of what the Gitxsan Treaty Office was doing. In fact, they made a presentation to the First Nations in our quarterly Chiefs meeting [the week of the announcement]. Elmer even had a chat with me after their presentation and never brought anything up then. I learned about this in the media the next day.”
He said when he read about the agreement he was infuriated. “When I looked at what they signed it made furious that they would use our lands to get benefits.”
“People know I oppose the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project and I am appalled that the Gitxsan Treaty Office would support Enbridge at the expense of other First Nations. But this is not why I am angry. I am angry because the Gitxsan Treaty Office is encouraging resource development on Lake Babine Nation’s territory and has done so without any prior consultation with our Nation.”
The proposed pipeline route will come within 200 feet of Chief Adam’s home but he noted that it won’t come within 50 miles of the Gitxsan’s territory.
Since demanding an apology, Lake Babine Nation have not yet received a response from the Gitxsan Treaty Office.
“I stated publicly and to Enbridge that I’m opposed to the pipeline as it will be less than 200 feet from my house. If the government and Enbridge are steadfast in building this pipeline, then I will make them pay. I don’t think it’s proper for any First Nation to get any type of benefits from another Nation’s territory until there is an agreement in place. In this case, the deal was done behind everybody’s backs and that is not right, or moral,” Chief Adam said.
Chief Adam said he phoned the office last week and has not yet had any response to his requests.
As of Monday Gitxsan members continued to blockade the office. On Dec. 7 Gitxsan Hereditary Chief Larry Patsey issued a press release stating that the Gitxsan Treaty Society was no more.
“Those individuals giving instruction to seek the Order against the Gitxsan people do not have authority to do so,” he said.
The statement also said the directors and senior staff were fired by the united Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs on Dec. 6 due to loss of confidence as well as a breach of the Gitxsan law and protocols.
Gordon Sebastion, executive director of the Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs’ Office, isn’t backing down. According to him, he’ll follow orders handed down by the Gitxsan Treaty Society board.