TERRACE -- Opponents of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline say they are willing to "lay down our lives" to stop the mega-project from going through.
Coastal First Nations executive director Art Sterritt told hundreds gathered at rally in Terrace on Sunday that the fight against the pipeline is far from finished.
"Our people are going to do whatever it takes to stop this," he said. "We'll use the legal route first, but if we have to after that people will be out there blocking it. British Columbians have said this loud and clear - I spoke in front of 5,000 people at the legislature [last fall] and to a person they said they'll be there. We'll stop this. It won't happen."
Despite the fact the provincial government said it doesn't support the $6.5 billion project to connect northern Alberta with Kitimat as currently proposed, speakers at a rally cautioned there is still a long way to go in their quest to stop the pipeline.
"My friends, all of you are here today to demonstrate that this fight is by no means over," Skeena NDP MLA Robin Austin said. "Don't be fooled for one second by what we've heard from the Premier of British Columbia suggesting that the Liberal party of British Columbia is now saying no to the Enbridge Northern Gateway project.
"Understand that those five conditions have lots of wiggle room in them - you don't have to be a lawyer to poke holes in those five conditions."
The provincial government has said unless its environmental, social and economic conditions are met it will not consider approving the permits necessary to allow the project to proceed and in a written final argument last month it said none of its conditions has been met. However, after meeting with Alberta Premier Alison Redford on Friday, B.C. Premier Christy Clark suggested there is still time for those conditions to be met before the National Energy Board's Joint Review Panel gives its final recommendation in December.
The province is expected to make its last oral statement of the regulatory hearing in front of the panel on Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning and Stikine NDP MLA Doug Donaldson said he will work with fellow northwest NDP MLAs Jennifer Rice and Austin to ensure the government doesn't change its mind on the project.
"The three of us will be going to Victoria to expose that deception and the unholy alliance between Premier Clark, Premier Redford and Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper," Donaldson told the crowd.
Sterritt, one of the organizers of the rally, said he was pleased with the turnout and believes it sent a strong message to government leaders at all levels.
Although the provincial government can deny some permits, the final say on whether the project is allowed to proceed is up to the federal government. It is expected to rule on the matter in early 2014 after receiving a recommendation from the Joint Review Panel later this year.
"We think and the provincial government thinks, they should tell the federal government to forget about this project, but the feds may very well approve it," Sterritt said. "If they do that's when the people have to start getting on the land."
Skeena-Bulkley Valley NDP MP Nathan Cullen, who will make his final presentation to the panel late this week or early next week, told the crowd that the pipeline has brought the people of the region closer together.
"The work is not done on this very bad idea," he said. "We have more work to do, more bake sales to have and more rallies to hold. Because these guys have a lot of money and a federal and provincial government in their back pockets."
The oral arguments begin Monday with Northern Gateway giving its rebuttal to evidence presented by project opponents. Thirty-seven intervener groups and individuals will then be given their chance to rebut evidence on the record.