VANCOUVER - An aboriginal group along the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline says Enbridge's (TSX:ENB) claim of widespread support among First Nations is a "sham."

On Tuesday, Enbridge announced it had signed agreements with 60 per cent of the aboriginal communities on the route, saying it's proof there's more support for the pipeline than opponents would suggest.

But the executive director of the Coastal First Nations, an alliance of 10 First Nations who oppose the project and that live on the land the pipeline will traverse, accused Enbridge of manipulating the facts.

Art Sterritt questioned how many First Nations along the route actually support the project, which would transport oil along the $5.5-billion pipeline between Bruderheim, Alta., and Kitimat B.C.

Paul Stanway, Enbridge's spokesman on the pipeline, wasn't available for comment Wednesday. But he said Tuesday the equity-sharing deals mean there isn't the wall of opposition that project opponents sometimes claim.

However, Enbridge has refused to name the First Nations that have signed deals.

"We have checked with all the First Nations along the pipeline route west of Prince George and only two First Nations have signed equity agreements," said Sterritt in a statement.

Sterritt called Enbridge's numbers flawed, noting the company expanded its corridor by 80 kilometres to boost the number of supporters, and many of the First Nations who have signed on are located outside of any area that could be impacted by a potential spill.

The company also included the Metis in the tally, but Sterritt said that aboriginal group doesn't have rights or title to land inside the corridor.

Of the two aboriginal groups that have said they have signed an equity deal, Sterritt noted the Gitksan people have rejected the agreement and some in the community are working to stop the project.

Enbridge has said First Nations who sign the deal will get about $280 million over 30 years, and the cash would start flowing within the first year of the pipeline's operation.

There are 45 First Nations along the pipeline, but Stanway wouldn't give a final figure on how many signed on because of contractual agreements.

Support for the project among aboriginal groups is split about evenly between Alberta and B.C. First Nations, said Stanway.

The B.C. Metis Federation said in a statement that while it has been seeking a voice for Metis on the pipeline, the federation's leaders oppose the project.

Enbridge's signed deal is with the Metis Nation British Columbia, but the federation called that group incompetant and said it does not speak for the wider Metis community.

"Despite the obvious Metis community and family concerns, MNBC signed the Enbridge equity deal announced May 26th with absolutely no mandate from Metis people or communities in British Columbia," the federation said in a news release.

"In some of proposed corridor locations, the Metis population count is greater than the local First Nations."

The public hearing process on the proposed pipeline is at about the midway point, and in September formal hearings will begin where expert witnesses will testify under oath to the review panel.

The Coastal First Nations includes the Wuikinuxv, Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xaixais, Nuxalk, Gitga’at, Haisla, Metlakatla, Old Massett, Skidegate, and Council of the Haida Nation, an alliance representing some 20,000 members.

10 IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT CANADA'S OIL INDUSTRY
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  • 10. Oil And Gas Accounts For 4.8 Per Cent Of GDP

    The oil and gas industries accounted for around $65 billion of economic activity in Canada annually in recent years, or slightly less than 5 per cent of GDP. Source: <a href="http://www.ceri.ca/docs/2010-10-05CERIOilandGasReport.pdf" target="_hplink">Canada Energy Research Institute</a>

  • 9. Oil Exports Have Grown Tenfold Since 1980

    Canada exported some 12,000 cubic metres of oil per day in 1980. By 2010, that number had grown to 112,000 cubic metres daily. Source: <a href="http://membernet.capp.ca/SHB/Sheet.asp?SectionID=9&SheetID=224" target="_hplink">Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers</a>

  • 8. Refining Didn't Grow At All As Exports Boomed

    Canada refined 300,000 cubic metres daily in 1980; in 2010, that number was slightly down, to 291,000, even though exports of oil had grown tenfold in that time. Source: <a href="http://membernet.capp.ca/SHB/Sheet.asp?SectionID=7&SheetID=104" target="_hplink">Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers</a>

  • 7. 97 Per Cent Of Oil Exports Go To The U.S.

    Despite talk by the federal government that it wants to open Asian markets to Canadian oil, the vast majority of exports still go to the United States -- 97 per cent as of 2009. Source: <a href="http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/statistics-facts/energy/895" target="_hplink">Natural Resources Canada</a>

  • 6. Canada Has World's 2nd-Largest Proven Oil Reserves

    Canada's proven reserves of 175 billion barrels of oil -- the vast majority of it trapped in the oil sands -- is the second-largest oil stash in the world, after Saudi Arabia's 267 billion. Source: <a href="http://www.ogj.com/index.html" target="_hplink">Oil & Gas Journal</a>

  • 5. Two-Thirds Of Oil Sands Bitumen Goes To U.S.

    One-third of Canada's oil sands bitumen stays in the country, and is refined into gasoline, heating oil and diesel. Source: <a href="http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/statistics-facts/energy/895" target="_hplink">Natural Resources Canada</a>

  • 4. Alberta Is Two-Thirds Of The Industry

    Despite its reputation as the undisputed centre of Canada's oil industry, Alberta accounts for only two-thirds of energy production. British Columbia and Saskatchewan are the second and third-largest producers. Source: <a href="http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/statistics-facts/energy/895" target="_hplink">Natural Resources Canada</a>

  • 3. Alberta Will Reap $1.2 Trillion From Oil Sands

    Alberta' government <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/03/27/alberta-oil-sands-royalties-ceri_n_1382640.html" target="_hplink">will reap $1.2 trillion in royalties from the oil sands over the next 35 years</a>, according to the Canadian Energy Research Institute.

  • 2. Canadian Oil Consumption Has Stayed Flat

    Thanks to improvements in energy efficiency, and a weakening of the country's manufacturing base, oil consumption in Canada has had virtually no net change in 30 years. Consumption went from 287,000 cubic metres daily in 1980 to 260,000 cubic metres daily in 2010. Source: Source: <a href="http://membernet.capp.ca/SHB/Sheet.asp?SectionID=6&SheetID=99" target="_hplink">Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers</a>

  • 1. 250,000 Jobs.. Plus Many More?

    The National Energy Board says oil and gas employs 257,000 people in Canada, not including gas station employees. And the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers says the oil sands alone <a href="http://www.capp.ca/aboutUs/mediaCentre/NewsReleases/Pages/OilsandsaCanadianjobcreator.aspx" target="_hplink">will grow from 75,000 jobs to 905,000 jobs by 2035</a> -- assuming, of course, the price of oil holds up.