A First Nations group wants the United Nations to step in and officiate its dispute with the province over preliminary work surrounding the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.
The Yinka Dene Alliance, a group of First Nations west of Prince George along the proposed route of the Alberta-to-Kitimat oil and condensate pipelines, has requested a meeting with the United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples James Anaya during Anaya's upcoming visit to Canada.
"Every time we try to do something with [with the provincial or federal government] they end up changing legislation, they change the act, the change policy, the change regulation instead of dealing with the real issue," Nadleh Whut'en chief Martin Louie said. "We're sort of tired now, we've been doing the same thing for the last 15 years dealing with changes in policies, regulations and acts and we've got nowhere else to go."
Louie hasn't heard yet if Anya will grant a meeting during his official visit next week.
The Yinka Dene are particularly upset with plans by Northern Gateway to do preliminary work along the route. The alliance asking the province to deny any permits until after a National Energy Board Joint Review Panel offers its recommendation at the end of December.
Northern Gateway has requested 33 provincial permits for geotechnical and geophysical work the company said it needs to do in order to resolve unanswered questions that came out of the environmental assessment hearings. Northern Gateway spokesman Ivan Giesbrecht said none of the permits have been granted, but one third are close to being approved.
Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations spokesman Brennan Clarke said 11 sets of permits have indeed been approved.
Both the government and Northern Gateway said none of the proposed work is on the traditional territories of the Yinka Dene Alliance First Nations.
"We're abiding by all applicable Canadian laws in the work that we're proposing to do," Giesbrecht said. "It's highly regulated and it's a process that's established through the provincial government."
The work the pipeline company is seeking to do includes taking soil samples and other analysis to determine some of the details of the project, if it's approved.
"This data will inform the next phase of engineering and planning which would be subject to further regulatory approval," Giesbrecht said.
Louie said the alliance held meetings last week with Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister John Rustad and Natural Gas Development Minister Rich Coleman, but the issues around Northern Gateway permits remain unresolved.
"For [Premier] Christy Clark to even think of letting this thing go through is a little bit crazy," Louie said. "The province isn't getting any benefits out of this whole thing, but Canada might get some but the only benefits that are going to happen are going to be in China."
Louie's group is reaching out to the international community because he said they can't trust the Canadian legal system.
"If we try to go to court in Canada we're going to end up being defeated because it's Canadian law against our aboriginal laws," he said. "We have nowhere else to go, we can't get anything resolved in Canada."