The proponent of a First Nations-backed oil pipeline proposal says support for the project is growing.
Eagle Spirit Energy Chairman and President Calvin Helin held a news conference in Calgary this week alongside a number of BC First Nations leaders.
Helin announced that Chief Dan George of the Burns Lake Band, Stellat’en Nation Chief Archie Patrick, Head Chief Art Mathews of the Gitwangak Hereditary Chiefs, and Head Chief Larry Marsden of the Gitsegukla Hereditary Chiefs have signed a declaration to work with Eagle Spirit.
The multi-billion dollar project aims to link the Alberta oil sands to the West Coast along with a refinery that would create synthetic crude from bitumen.
According to Burns Lake Indian Band Chief Dan George, “We are excited to work with like-minded people. We are equally excited to work with Eagle Spirit Energy and we are confident that we will demonstrate that success with First Nations is possible and so we have confirmed our participation through the Declaration of Support. This First Nations led and owned project is confirmation of First Nations commercial stewardship with and through Eagle Spirit Energy.”
Eagle Spirit, which is in partnership with the Vancouver-based Aquilini Group, is expected to pick its proposed route for the pipeline in the next couple of months.
One of the chiefs who traveled to Calgary but has not yet signed the declaration is Martin Louie of the Nadleh Whut’en. Of his involvement, Louie says, “they’re First Nations people, but you’re going to be treated the same way as any industry; we’re going to scrutinize, do everything to see what’s going on…I never agreed to them, with the project, but I’m willing to look at how far they’re willing to go with it and that’s basically what I went there for.”
Louie says whatever the project may be, government and industry have to realize that it can no longer be business as usual in Nadleh Whut’en territory after the historic Tsilhqot’in decision at the Supreme Court of Canada.
“Along with over a hundred other nations, Nadleh Whut’en has banned the proposed Enbridge pipeline project from our territories, but the issue is bigger than Enbridge,” says Chief Louie. “The potential is there for many other types of projects and developments to proceed responsibly in our territory, whether LNG, logging, mining, or oil by pipeline – if our laws and standards are met.”