An alliance of ten native groups from Canada and the United States says that it is determined to stop the Keystone, Enbridge and Kinder Morgan pipelines, using "physical action" if necessary.
A Reuters article on Monday entitled "Canada aboriginal movement poses new threat to miners," has proven timely as this week native groups in the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Newfoundland filed a $900 million lawsuit against the Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC), of which Rio Tinto is the majority shareholder.
This latest vow to block all three multibillion-dollar pipelines is part of the broader "Idle No More" movement which has gained momentum in Canada since its inception in November of last year.
The movement is increasingly seen as a threat to Canada's coveted status as a low-risk jurisdiction for mining and energy projects.
For better or worse, Canada's economy currently depends on revenue from the Alberta oil sands, which is in decline as a result of pipeline "bottlenecks" that reduce the flow of Canadian petroleum to refineries in the US and around the world.
The native alliance, whose territories are either on or near the oil sands or pipeline routes, says that their rights are being ignored by the respective federal governments and that the proposed pipelines would contribute negatively to climate change.
The Canadian native bands within the international alliance also claim that:
The Canadian government is ignoring treaties signed with native bands in the 18th and 19th centuries. These agreements, they say, give aboriginal groups a major say in what happens on their territories.
"They've been stealing from us for the last 200 years … now they're going to destroy our land? We're not going to let that happen," said Martin Louie of the Nadleh Whut'en First Nation in British Columbia.
"If we have to go to court, if we have to stand in front of any of their machines that are going to take the oil through, we are going to do that. We're up against a wall here. We have nowhere else to go."
The three pipelines in question:
- TransCanada Corp's Keystone XL to Texas, which is awaiting approval from Washington
- Enbridge Inc's Northern Gateway to the Pacific Coast, which if built will help export oil to China
- Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP's plans to more than double the capacity of its existing Trans Mountain pipeline to Vancouver
Sources: Reuters, the Canadian Press