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First Nations say work already starting on Northern Gateway

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) A First Nations group dedicated to preserving the Fraser River Watershed say they’re already seeing work starting on the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline even though the approval process hasn’t yet finished.

The Yinka Dene Alliance took their fight against Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline all the way to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, on Thursday.

First Nations groups have expressed concern over the project because of the risk it poses to the Fraser River, a source of not only water for British Columbia communities, but food and transportation as well.

The Alliance is waiting to hear his recommendations expected after his visit to Canada concludes on October 15th, but in Northern communities, they’re disturbed by what’s already happening.

“Permits were issued [by the provincial government] to cut down trees, to drill holes, to lay the groundwork for the project, which is really putting the cart before the horse,” says Alliance Coordinator Geraldine Thomas Flurer.

Flurer and other members of the Alliance hope recommendations from Anaya will help them convince Enbridge and the Federal Government the pipeline is not in the best interest of Canadians.

In the meantime, Flurer says they’ve “put up no-trespass signs, have a surveillance system that’s set up, a fine system that’s set up, we have traditional government that are in action, and [the Alliance] are going to continue to fight.” The group has also sent a cease and desist letter to Enbridge over the pipeline, warning it violates First Nations laws.

Flurer adds it’s not just aboriginal people in Northern communities worried the projects will destroy the Fraser watershed. Hunters, fishermen and other people have approached their group asking for their help in preventing the project from going forward according to Flurer.

First Nations leaders, including Flurer, warn if it comes to it, they are willing to lay down in front of machinery to stop work from progressing.

The Yinka Dene Alliance is the group responsible for the Save the Fraser Declaration, an indigenous law signed by over 160 First Nations representatives around the province banning any oil-sands projects from the Fraser River Watershed.