NADLEH WHUT'EN, DAKELH TERRITORIES, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - July 20, 2011) - Recent statements by the federal minister of natural resources confirm that Ottawa's process to review the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines is deeply flawed, say five BC First Nations. Harper's Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver – who is the minister responsible for the National Energy Board that is reviewing the Enbridge project – has made a number of statements in recent days about the federal government's support for the pipeline.

Mr. Oliver has stated to media during meetings of energy ministers in Alberta that the federal government is "supportive" of the proposed Enbridge pipeline, because it is "in the national interest." He remarked that it is ultimately a political decision of the Harper cabinet that will determine whether or not the Enbridge pipelines are built. This contradicts previous statements by Harper ministers that the decision was up to the National Energy Board.

"Mr. Oliver's statements are completely inappropriate, and confirm our fears about the National Energy Board's independence," said Chief Larry Nooski of Nadleh Whut'en. "How can we trust the process when Harper's telling them he wants this decision wrapped up with a bow tied around it? We asked the federal government for a truly independent process to make this decision. Now it's clear that Harper's government has already made up its mind before hearings have even begun."

Whether or not the project is in the national interest is the central question to be determined by the National Energy Board, which begins its hearings in January 2012. Usually, ministers refrain from commenting on matters that are being decided by federal tribunals and courts. Minister Oliver is responsible for the National Energy Board, and its members are appointed and re-appointed by cabinet.

"Communities across the north have been told we're supposed to bring our concerns forward to the National Energy Board. But now we have the federal minister saying that they've made their decision in Ottawa without hearing from a single soul at the hearings," said Chief Fred Sam of Nak'azdli.

"We think it's crazy for the minister to say that this project is in the national interest. This is in the interest of Enbridge. This project will violate our rights and those of many other First Nations," said Chief Dolly Abraham. "We need a process that recognizes our right to make decisions about how our lands are used. Who is protecting our rights and our communities when Harper's minister tries to dictate a decision to the National Energy Board?"

The five First Nations of the Yinka Dene Alliance have advocated for several years with the federal government to create a review process for the Enbridge pipelines that would involve First Nations as decision-makers, along with the federal government. The existing process does not recognize the status of First Nations as governments.

The Yinka Dene Alliance is made up of Nadleh Whut'en, Nak'azdli, Takla Lake, Saik'uz and Wet'suwet'en First Nations, located in the central interior of BC. More than 25% of the Enbridge pipeline and tanker route is in their traditional territories. After considering the project for a number of years, the Nations of the Yinka Dene Alliance decided to oppose the Enbridge project.

Contact Information:

Yinka Dene Alliance
Geraldine Thomas-Flurer