Two days of hearings for Enbridge's Northern Gateway Project got off to a rocky start Friday in Prince Rupert, B.C., amid more opposition by First Nations and a prominent local politician.
Skeena-Bulkley Valley NDP MP Nathan Cullen was asked repeatedly by the hearing panel to stop his oral testimony Friday morning.
Community consultations on the Northern Gateway Project have been making their way through Western Canadasince January.
The consultations are to evaluate a $5.5-billion plan that would see bitumen piped from the Alberta oilsands across northern B.C. to oil tankers on the west coast, for international export.
Cullen sought to discredit Enbridge's approach to community consultation, but the panel felt Cullen's evidence didn't abide by hearing rules that require presenters to speak from personal experience.
"The way a company conducts itself with a community in advance of a project is also indicative of maybe how they will conduct themselves with the community after the project is in the ground, if you follow my line of reasoning," said Cullen, who is also a candidate for the leadership of the federal New Democrats.
"Again I would remind you we are not here to hear argument," interjected panellist Sheila Leggett. "We're not here to hear the case from that perspective."
Metlakatla First Nation member banned from hearing
Members of the Metlakatla First Nation expressed frustration at what they said was an attempt by Enbridge lawyers to limit Cullen's testimony.
In a news release Friday afternoon, the Metlakatla said a member dressed in traditional drumming regalia left the hearing room in frustration, after Cullen was told he should not speak for First Nations.
The band said security and RCMP then told Lara Peterson she was not allowed back inside the hearing room and said she would be arrested and charged with trespassing if she tried.
"They can arrest me if they want. I'm not going to shut up," said Peterson.
"I have a 10-year-old and a 14-month-old and they love their fish. I want them to continue to eat fish. They eat fish three or four times a week. We don't feed our babies Pablum. They eat fish. As soon as they start showing teeth the first thing they taste is herring eggs — roe — on kelp."
The news release said three men intervened on Peterson's behalf and convinced RCMP to allow her to return to the hearings.
Nisga'a oppose pipeline project
Meanwhile, the Nisga'a Nation — one of northern B.C.'s largest First Nations — has taken a stand against the controversial pipeline project.
More than 60 First Nations have already spoken out against Enbridge's plans, but Nisga'a President Mitchell Stevens says it took his people a bit longer to decide.
"We did not make a statement on Enbridge right at the outset because our technical data wasn't in. We won't just oppose anything for the sake of opposing it. We have to have scientific and technical data that will back up our position," said Stevens.
"But at the end of the day, we understand that everything is driven by the economic stake, and it will be a federal government decision."
Stevens said their opposition to the pipeline project is based in a historic treaty, signed in 1998, that gave the Nisga'a control of the Nass Valley.
"The proposed pipeline won't run through our territory but [the] Nisga'a nation is concerned that the threat of oil tanker spill, what that would pose to fish — which Nisga'a citizens depend on — that's a constitutionally protected right in our treaty," said Stevens.