UN envoy hears aboriginal concerns

By David P. Ball, 24 hours Vancouver

Chief Fred Sam, Nak'azdli First Nation.  (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)

Chief Fred Sam, Nak'azdli First Nation. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)

First Nations fighting the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline are “hopeful” their voice was heard after a meeting with a high-level United Nations official Thursday.

James Anaya, the body’s indigenous rights envoy, was in Vancouver meeting with aboriginal groups. The discussions covered missing women, poor housing conditions and fisheries, among others.

The Yinka Dene Alliance of pipeline-opposing First Nations said governments, both provincial and federal, “failed” to consult aboriginals on the projects in language hinting at potential future lawsuits .

“I was very impressed by James Anaya,” said Geraldine Thomas-Flurer, the alliance coordinator. “Would he bring this issue forward to Canada? We remain hopeful that he will. Part of his job is fact-finding. He does have the mandate to make recommendations to Canada.”

A Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations spokesman defended 11 permits granted for Enbridge Inc. to do “investigative” work along the planned route as “a standard, preliminary step for any activity of this type.”

The Calgary-based company is awaiting Ottawa’s decision on its proposed oil sands pipeline.

Enbridge didn’t respond to an interview request by press time.

Chief Fred Sam of alliance member Nak'azdli First Nation, said the audience with Anaya is the latest effort to express a united protest by aboriginals to projects like Northern Gateway.

“He was sincere about what we had to say,” Sam said. “It's too bad that he wasn't granted more time in Canada. There are a lot of things happening.”


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