Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Lone B.C. Chief Backs Enbridge Pipeline amid Overwhelming Opposition: Lone B.C. Chief Backs Enbridge Pipeline

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Lone B.C. Chief Backs Enbridge Pipeline amid Overwhelming Opposition: Lone B.C. Chief Backs Enbridge Pipeline

Article excerpt

TERRACE, B.C. - His office door is nailed shut. A 24-hour volunteer watch by area residents has been on guard for his return since Dec. 5.

Posters showing his face and questioning his authority are up across northwest B.C.

It's little wonder that Gitxsan Hereditary Chief Elmer Derrick prefers the darkness of his front door to talk.

"I've been very ill," he said, refusing requests to illuminate the doorway.

Derrick has adopted a low profile -- some say he's been in hiding -- since reports surfaced about the $7-million deal he signed with Enbridge Inc., (TSX:ENB) builders of the proposed $5.5-billion Northern Gateway oil pipeline, on behalf of the Gitxsan people.

"I know we still have a deal with Enbridge," he said in a rare interview since his support was announced. "The chiefs have not told me otherwise."

Derrick shrugs off observations that, so far, he's the only aboriginal in British Columbia to publicly voice his support for the Northern Gateway project and sign a deal in exchange for an equity stake.

The twin pipeline from Alberta to northwest B.C., will allow Alberta oil to be loaded onto tankers and shipped down the West Coast to Asian and American markets.

"From what I can find out, I believe that I think an offer was made to at least 40 different nations in Alberta and B.C. and from what I've been told, at least 25 nations have signed the agreement," Derrick said.

"I think national energy security is important to this country and we need to find different ways to bring employment opportunities to our communities."

Derrick said aboriginal rights and titles issues must be resolved as part of any pipeline development, but the agreement he signed with Enbridge represents an economic opportunity for his people.

"Very little economic activity is taking place here and it's even worse when you focus on people of my colour," he said.

"People of my colour never even get an opportunity to get work, they're usually at the back of the line."

Sammy Robinson, whose Haisla community around lies about 200 kilometres northeast of the town of Kitimat, has come to a different conclusion.

Like Derrick, Robinson was born to his job, inheriting the title of chief and the leadership responsibilities that come with it.

The hereditary Haisla chief told the opening day of environmental hearings in Kitamaat Village last week that he spent his childhood on his family's ancestral trapline, an area that could be destroyed if there were a catastrophic oil spill.

In his speech, he tried to introduce panelists to the land he and his ancestors have known since, as his mother once put it, "the trees were this small."

"She motioned with her thumb and her index finger almost together," he told the panel.

Robinson explained the area is full of the Haisla people's history, from the carvings of killer whales and other creatures, to the wooden tub his father built at a nearby hotspring. …

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