Public hearings into the proposed $5.5-billion Northern Gateway oil pipeline project continued Wednesday in the northern B.C. aboriginal community of Kitamaat Village, with at least one person speaking in favour of the project.
Kitimat resident Peter King, one of the first speakers Wednesday, said he's lived in northwestern B.C. for 53 years, and believes social and economic grounds justify the project.
The opposition "gave me pause that perhaps I should stay home, but I committed to this, so I proceeded with it," said King.
He said the people of Kitimat don't have the right to deprive other countries and citizens the chance to improve their lives with Canadian energy.
King's comments come in stark contrast to those who spoke Tuesday, including aboriginal leaders who warned the risk of an oil spill is too great.
"Exxon Valdez — I don't want that in my territory, no matter how much money you put in front of me," Haisla elder Henry Amos said to a standing ovation from the crowd.
He also questioned the legitimacy of the federal review, saying the impartiality of two members of the three-person panel is in doubt because they are from the National Energy Board.
"You're appointed by the federal government, and that's the same government that is telling the world that this project should go ahead. That is my greatest concern — that we are at a disadvantage," he said.
Following Amos's remarks, the panel chair instructed him to speak only to the project itself.
'We don't need no Enbridge pipeline'
Outside the hearings, a spontaneous protest song broke out among Haisla women taking a cigarette break.
"We don't need no Enbridge pipeline," they sang. "We don't need no oil in our valley."
The public hearings continue in Kitamaat Village Wednesday before moving on to Terrace, B.C., Thursday afternoon.
Members from Douglas Channel Watch, the Métis Nation of B.C. and the Kitimat Valley Naturalists are scheduled to speak Wednesday.
The federal review panel will conduct hearings for at least the next 18 months across B.C. and Alberta before deciding whether the pipeline should be approved.
Energy giant Enbridge says it can safely carry oil from the Edmonton area, across north-central B.C. to the port in Kitimat, where the crude will be shipped from for export to China.
Stars lend power to fight
In another development, two Hollywood heavyweights have offered their star power to the fight the Enbridge proposal.
Last year, Robert Redford wrote a newspaper opinion piece describing ugly effects oil extraction has on the environment, while Kevin Bacon narrated an online video about oil spills.
The actors are believed to have prompted federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver to issue an open letter earlier this week deriding opponents of the project as environmental "radicals" and "jet-setting celebrities with some of the largest personal carbon footprints in the world."
That letter prompted outrage from an alliance of five First Nations opposed to the project.
In a written statement released Wednesday, the Yinka Dene Alliance accused the federal government of disrespecting its own laws by predetermining the outcome of the pipeline review.
'Disrespectful of First Nations'
"The fix is in with this government. How can any Canadian trust that the Enbridge review process will be conducted fairly and independently with Harper breathing down the review panel's neck?" said Chief Larry Nooski of Nadleh Whut'en First Nation, a member of the Yinka Dene Alliance.
"We have had deep concerns about this Enbridge review process from the very beginning, because it doesn't respect First Nations' rights — that's why we're not intervening at the review panel."
The group said the integrity of the review process has been botched by Oliver's comments.
"It is ludicrous for the federal minister to parrot tarsands lobbyists by directly attacking our communities that have decided the Enbridge project is too dangerous and against our laws," said Nooski.
"We're not foreign — these are our lands. To imply that our decision against Enbridge has been manipulated is deeply disrespectful of First Nations people, and our many neighbours who have joined our cause and support our decision to refuse this pipeline."
About 60,000 people have already sent messages opposing the pipeline to B.C. Premier Christy Clark, while another 40,000 have reportedly emailed Enbridge president Patrick Daniel.
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