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Activist Communique: Dene First Nation throws support behind stopping Enbridge pipeline

The Dene First Nation -- whose territory stretches from Northern Alberta to across the entire North West Territories -- passed a resolution supporting British Columbia's Yinka Deneerent in their opposition to Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline and supporting the right for Indigenous decision making power over their territory.

Much of Dene territory is coveted by the Enbridge Corporation (over 50 per cent of the pipeline and tanker routes) for its Northern Gateway pipeline project, a $5.5 billion dollar project. When completed, it will carry an average of 525,000 barrels of petroleum per day.

Enbridge Corp. notes the benefits to Northern businesses during the three-year construction of the pipeline as well as the creation of thousands of jobs, including "approximately 62,700 person-years of construction employment throughout the Canadian economy, including a peak workforce of approximately 3,000 workers."

It has also pledged one per cent of pre-tax revenue to First Nations communities.

This said, at the 41st Annual Dene National Assembly earlier this month, the thirty-five Chiefs of Denendeh (representing the Dene First Nation) voted in solidarity with the Yinka Dene Alliance to oppose the pipeline project, as it is, "also a direct concern for members of the Dene Nation and communities in Denendeh, the Northwest Territories, who are feeling the effects of tar sands expansion."

"We know this pipeline will enable further development of Alberta's destructive tar sands projects, which are contaminating the waters of Denendeh, and which are a growing source of greenhouse gas pollution responsible for the climate changes that are impacting our communities, cultures, and ways of life," Erasmus said.

"We are also concerned about the potential for a spill from this pipeline, which would run through the headwaters of the Mackenzie River watershed. We are currently experiencing the impacts of an oil spill from Enbridge's Norman Wells pipeline in the Deh Cho region. The company failed to detect this estimated 63,000 gallon spill, which was ultimately discovered by Dene hunters," said Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus.

While on its website, Enbridge claims that it operates "according to the highest industry standards for safety and environmental protection" the Dene First Nation notes that "with over 100 pipeline spills and accidents recorded in Canada over the past two years there is only one thing to say about pipelines; they will spill," Erasmus said.

He went on to note that, "More than 50 per cent of the proposed Enbridge pipeline and tanker route passes through the territories of First Nations that have banned this development according to their traditional laws. These Nations now have the support of Dene from northern Alberta to the Arctic coast."

In the neighbouring First Nation of the Alberta Lubicon Cree, the TransCanada Pipeline's North Central Corridor project has experienced its own environmental catastrophic leaks when 4.5 million litres of tar sands crude and diluent spilled uncontrollably out onto Lubicon Cree traditional territory in May, 2011.

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