Oil Sands: First Nations Tell Scotiabank to Cut Up Enbridge's $10-Billion Credit Card

First Nations take struggle against Enbridge to banks; Scotiabank CEO Rick Waugh is invited to visit First Nations communities to hear their concerns.

HALIFAX, MI'KMAQ TERRITORY, NOVA SCOTIA--(Marketwire - April 5, 2011) - The five First Nations of the Yinka Dene Alliance in British Columbia are delivering a message to Scotiabank and its shareholders today in Halifax: Do not finance Enbridge or its Northern Gateway Pipeline project, since Enbridge fails to respect the authority of First Nations along the proposed pipeline route.

Scotiabank is the third bank to receive a warning about Enbridge in recent weeks, with direct appeals to TD's shareholders last week in Victoria and BMO's the week before in Vancouver. To deliver their message, the Nations sent First Nations youth leader, Jasmine Thomas, age 24.

"If Scotiabank raises money to build Enbridge's pipelines and tankers through the territories of First Nations who have said "no," it will contribute to the violation of our human rights as Indigenous people," said Thomas. "For all the young people growing up in our First Nations communities, this project puts a dark, oily blot on our future."

Since 2007, Scotiabank has raised more than US$10 billion for Enbridge, Inc., the general partner in Northern Gateway Pipelines. Approximately one quarter of the proposed oil sands pipeline route from Alberta to BC would pass through traditional territories of the Yinka Dene Nations, and if approved, Enbridge would likely go to Canadian banks like Scotiabank to raise capital.

"Scotiabank needs to respect our Indigenous rights when it decides how to lend its money," said Geraldine Thomas-Flurer, project coordinator with the Yinka Dene Alliance. "Enbridge's pipelines and the inevitable oil spills that would result are against our laws, and we will protect our rivers and communities from this risk."

In a letter sent to Scotiabank on March 10, 2011, the Yinka Dene Alliance called on the bank to make business decisions in a way that respects the rights of Indigenous people. The letter stated that after long consideration of the Enbridge project, the Nations conclude that the pipeline would violate their Indigenous laws and their obligation to protect their lands and waters. According to Enbridge's own reports, the company had nearly 700 oil spills from 1999 to 2009, not including the massive Kalamazoo spill in Michigan last year.

Enbridge has failed to recognize the authority of First Nations over their territories, and has indicated it will proceed with the Northern Gateway project, with or without First Nations consent. This violates the standards of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Canada endorsed last year. The Declaration states that First Nations must give free, prior, and informed consent to projects that will affect their land and resources.

Other Canadian banks have already moved to recognize these rights. In December 2010, RBC adopted a policy requiring bankers to document where client activities impact Indigenous communities, and to consider whether clients have "policies and processes consistent with the standard of Free, Prior and Informed Consent." TD bank adopted a similar policy in 2007.

Jasmine Thomas added: "Scotiabank has told us that there's a debate about free, prior and informed consent. For us, there is no debate. We have the right to make decisions about what happens in our lands – based in our own ancient laws, and recognized in Canadian law and international law. Scotiabank should catch up with Royal Bank and TD Bank, which have already committed to recognize our right to consent."

The Yinka Dene Alliance includes Nadleh Whut'en, Nak'azdli, Takla Lake, Saik'uz, and Wet'suwet'en First Nations, and is a leader in the Save the Fraser Declaration (http://savethefraser.ca/), uniting Nations in the Fraser River watershed from the headwaters to the coast in banning the transportation of oil sands crude through their territories. 

Contact Information: Yinka Dene Alliance
Geraldine Thomas-Flurer