Lheidli T’enneh Nation in B.C. moves to push Enbridge pipeline off territory

Lheidli T’enneh First Nation has ended negotiations with Enbridge and now says they want their pipeline removed from the territory.

The two sides have been in talks after the company’s natural gas pipeline exploded near Lheidli’s Northside Subdivision in 2018.

On March 25, Malcolm Macpherson, a representing the nation on the lawsuit, shared the nation’s stance.

“Enbridge’s operations are squarely in the unceded territory of the Lheidli T’enneh, who never gave up their sovereignty or lands through treaty or war,” he said.

Lheidli T’enneh and Enbridge have been in discussions after a massive explosion of a natural gas pipeline that lead to the evacuation of 100 members from the north and south subdivisions on Oct. 9, 2018.

In February 2019, the lawsuit from the Lheidli T’enneh was initially launched seeking damages caused by the explosion.

In the Spring of 2020, the parties entered negotiations to try to settle the matter out of court.

Last fall, the Lheidli T’enneh got an offer from Enbridge and called it “pitiful and disrespectful.

“It is not business as usual for the Lheidli T’enneh, who do not consent to Enbridge transporting hydrocarbons in an unsafe manner through their reserve and territories,” said Macpherson.

An image taken from a plane of the 2018 Enbridge pipeline blast near the Northside Subdivision. Photo courtesy: Lheidli T’enneh First Nation.

Last Thursday, Lheidli T’enneh First Nation announced it was ending negotiations with Enbridge.

According to leaders, it will move ahead with legal action, which includes wanting 100 kilometres a natural gas pipeline re-routed off of their territory around Prince George, B.C.

APTN News asked Enbridge for comment and the company responded with a statement.

“We’re disappointed the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation has chosen to walk away from negotiations and rejected our offer of bringing in an impartial mediator to help resolve this matter,” a spokesperson said.

The company refuted the band’s claim the offer was too small.

“We have made several generous offers to the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation for the Shelley incident over the course of many months of negotiations. However, the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation is looking for a settlement from Enbridge on matters beyond the incident itself and that aren’t in our control or involve other parties,” they said.

“Our hope continues to be to reach a settlement and avoid a lengthy legal proceeding. Coming to an amicable resolution rather than a legal proceeding is always far better.”

Enbridge also commented on the issue of safety from the explosion near the community Shelley which is at the core of this dispute.

“Enbridge has learned from the Shelley incident and have taken action to ensure the safety of our natural gas system. Since the incident, we’ve completed a comprehensive pipeline integrity program on our natural gas pipeline system in B.C. to significantly improve pipeline safety. This program includes enhanced pipeline inspections, maintenance screening criteria and more than 144 integrity digs.”

Malcolm Macpherson, Lheidli T’enneh legal counsel. Photo: Lee Wilson/APTN.

At last week’s press conference Lheidli T’enneh leaders expressed their disappointment in the response from the blast.

“The Enbridge brand has become synonymous with danger and mishap in our community. Enbridge says it’s committed to safety and world class standards but we learned post explosion and during the negotiations that these are empty promises, said Lheidli T’enneh Chief Clayton Pountney.

The Lheidli T’enneh leaders also made it a point to warn their Indigenous neighbours in the North about their dealing with the company.

“I still feel like we’re treated kinda like they are Goliath and we’re David, they kind of walk in and do as they please, and they are very used to acting in this manner, and this attitude has to change moving forward, “ shared Pountney.

The nation says if Enbridge wants to operate and build pipelines in BC they need to build trust, especially with B.C. government adopting the Declaration of Rights of Indigenous People Act in 2019.

Lheidli’s legal counsel, Malcolm Macpherson, said the nation is done waiting.

“We are done playing the finger-pointing game, Enbridge; you’re a multi-national corporation, and BC, you’re both the crown, it’s supposed to be a crown undivided. Get in the room together and if you are truly committed to UNDRIP do the right thing and stop playing this silly shell game which is not serving anyone’s interests.”

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