An organization raising money to help support First Nations legal challenges against Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline has increased its fundraising goal from $250,000 to $300,000 by the end of December.
Pull Together, the organization in question, is a grassroots fundraising group originally former in Smithers and Terrace, B.C. in 2014.
Currently there are nine or more First Nations communities involved in legal disputes with Enbridge, and six of those Nations have joined the Pull Together campaign including the Haida Nation which only recently joined as well as the Kitasoo/Xai’xais. Gitxaala Heiltsuk, Nadleh Whut’en and Nak’azdli.
President of the Haida Nation Peter Lantin said of joining the Pull Together group.
“The Pull Together campaign is driven by people who care and are politically astute. They can see how the future of the country is shaping up and want to be part of it.”
The legal claims of these nations revolve around territorial disputes between First Nation’s communities who are opposed to the pipeline being developed on and through their traditional territories.
First Nations groups are on the forefront of legal claims against Enbridge and cite the fact that according to constitutional law, Canada must consult and accommodate First Nations groups regarding development on their territories.
A report conducted by the West Coast Environmental law group states that under constitutional and international law B.C. First Nations have the right to issue bans on oil pipelines in their territories.
The Tsilhqot’in decision reached earlier this year in the Williams case, in which the Canadian courts ruled that the Tsilhqot’in First Nation had legal title rights to their territories, has set precedent for other First Nation’s communities who are disputing the pipeline.
Under that ruling the only times that economic development can go forward on First Nation’s territories without their consent is if the Crown can demonstrate the development is substantial and of immediate importance.
Pull Together is managed in part by the Sierra Club B.C., an environmental non-profit organization and the legal defence fund RAVEN Trust of Victoria.
In the four months that Pull Together has been operational they have managed to raise well over $200,000 with donations coming from regional, provincial, national, global and independent donors.
All donations made to the campaign, some of which total over $40,000, are being matched by an independent donor who wishes to remain anonymous.
The next step in the battle to stop the pipeline will involve gathering of evidence to make claims in court and Susan Smitten, the executive director of RAVEN says this step can be expensive.
“This is an extensive, costly legal process. The next stage involves gathering all of the evidence required for the Nations to make their cases at court. While all the Nations are committed to going it alone, standing together and pooling resources with all British Columbians ensures equal access to justice and a successful outcome with much more likelihood of success.”
The Pull Together campaign is currently offering training to community groups and individuals wishing to help through the Sierra Club BC. Those interested in supporting the legal claims can donate and get involved at www.pull-together.ca