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VANCOUVER -- The 'wall of opposition' to tar sands pipelines across British Columbia got stronger Thursday, as First Nations, environmental campaigners and municipal politicians gathered for a special public ceremony at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.
The event was a celebration and a reaffirmation of the Save the Fraser Declaration, a historic statement of unity that prohibits tar sands exports across Indigenous lands. The Declaration , now signed by over 130 First Nations, "bans tar sands pipelines and tankers, as a matter of Indigenous law, from First Nations territories forming an unbroken chain from the U.S. border to the Arctic Ocean -- and spanning the entire length of B.C. from north to south."
The B.C. Métis Federation, as well as the Tahltan Central Council and the Tahltan Band Council added their signatures to the Declaration.
Members of the Yinka Dene Alliance, the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, Assembly of First Nations Grand Chief Edward John of the First Nations Summit and other First Nations' representatives took part as well.
To mark the occasion, Mayor Gregor Robertson announced that December 13th had been officially designated as "Save the Fraser Day" by the City of Vancouver. Mayor Robertson called the proposed pipeline and tankers projects part of a "frightening and unsustainable" future, adding "A great majority of this city is opposed [to the pipelines] and will stand strong to make sure these projects do not impact us, do not undermine our environment, our economy and our future."
Earlier this year, the City of Vancouver and neighbouring Burnaby passed resolutions against the proposed expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline which, if built, would result in a massive growth of oil tanker traffic in Vancouver harbour.
The Save the Fraser Declaration was initially negotiated in 2010, as a response to the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project. Both the wording of the Declaration, and the scope of the signatories, reflect the unity of opposition to all expansion of tar sands export infrastructure.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs explained that Indigenous leaders and communities are prepared to do whatever it takes to stop Enbridge, including "political support and legal support, and, if necessary, to link arms on the front line."
National Chief Atleo emphasized the importance of the Save the Fraser Declaration as an assertion by First Nations of their aboriginal rights and title: "We will stand with you as you say no to what is being proposed in your territories."