A Michigan independent news network reports that the Saik’uz First Nation of British Columbia has refused and offer by the Enbridge company of $1.5 billion and a 10% stake in a pipeline project that would move tar sands oil across their territory.
The Financial Post reports that although the average yearly income in the community is just $10,000, its leader has refused to negotiate the use of tribal land, stating that fish and water are more valuable than money.
Chief Jackie Thomas of the Saik’uz -people of the sandy creek -a community of 1,000 living on and off a reserve located south of Vanderhoof, has led a fight for almost eight years against the pipeline.
Her concern is for the hundreds of waterways that the 1,200-kilometer pipeline would cross, putting them at risk of a direct or indirect contamination from an oil spill.
“We can count on our fish, our animals in the bush to feed us,” she said. “If my grandchild has to buy water, and have water shipped in, it’s not good.”
Last year’s Enbridge oil pipeline spill in Michigan, and the BP PLC Macondo well spill in the Gulf of Mexico, reinforced to First Nations the risk of water contamination from drilling and transporting oil. Some First Nations representatives went to the Gulf of Mexico to witness the devastation first hand. She said the Michigan incident undermined trust in Enbridge’s ability to operate safely, despite the company’s long safety record.
Enbridge is trying to build a new “Northern Gateway” pipeline to move oil from the tar sands region of Alberta to a marine terminal in Kitimat, British Columbia for export to Asia. At least 54 British Columbia bands have united in opposition to the proposed pipeline.