Fallout over a contentious deal between the Gitxsan Nation and Enbridge continued Monday, with more voices assailing an agreement that had seemed a breakthrough deal for the company.
“The closest that pipeline would come to Gitxsan territory is 50 miles away,” said Wilf Adam, chief of the Lake Babine Nation, which on Monday called for a formal retraction and apology from the Gitsxan Treaty Office in relation to the Enbridge agreement.
By contrast, the proposed pipeline route would run about 200 metres from his house, Mr. Adam said.
On Friday, Gitxsan hereditary chief Elmer Derrick announced that the Gitxsan would partner with Enbridge in the $5.5-billion Northern Gateway project. The announcement was welcomed by Enbridge, which has been fighting an uphill public-relations battle against a wave of native opposition but has insisted that such opposition is not unanimous.
Almost as soon as the deal was announced, however, there were complaints within the Gitxsan about a lack of consultation.
On Monday, that discontent was formalized in a statement by some Gitxsan chiefs that the community was unaware of negotiations with Enbridge and that the Dec. 2 announcement was not sanctioned by the Gitxsan.
Hereditary chief Norman Stephens said between 50 to 100 people, many dressed in traditional regalia, marched to the offices of the Gitxsan Treaty Society on Monday to demand the resignations of those involved in the pact.
“We put on our regalia and walked to the Gitxsan Treaty Society and informed them that their services were no longer needed,” Mr. Stephens said in a telephone interview.
As internal Gitxsan conflict brewed, other native groups said the announcement did not signify a potential shift in native opinion about the project.
“There is no deal, there won’t be a deal and there won’t be a pipeline,” David Luggi, Tribal Chief with the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, said on Monday when asked if his group had signed an agreement with Enbridge.
Enbridge says it has signed agreements with other bands but that those agreements are confidential and it is up to the bands involved to disclose them. The company has also said that it has spent years working to understand and respect the Gitxsan traditional government and that Chief Derrick represents the consensus view of a majority of that leadership.
Under the deal, the Gitxsan would have been expected to receive about $7-million. On a conference call with reporters, Mr. Derrick described the project as a way to generate jobs and opportunities in a region grappling with rampant unemployment and teen suicides.
On Monday, Mr. Stephens said he was not aware of any other of 65 hereditary chiefs who support the pact.
A call to the Gitxsan Treaty Office was not immediately returned.
The Gitxsan Treaty Society is a non-profit society formed in 1994 to represent Gitxsan hereditary chiefs in treaty negotiations. But some of those chiefs have joined a lawsuit filed against the society that claims it has refused to take direction from the hereditary chiefs or to share information.
That dispute is scheduled to go to court in the new year.
Enbridge has agreed to provide a 10-per-cent equity stake to eligible native communities in B.C. and Alberta.