Heiltsuk Nation Braces for Second Round of JRP Hearings

Heiltsuk Tribal Council News Release. July 26, 2012
July 26, 2012, BELLA BELLA, BC – The Heiltsuk First Nation will be delivering a second round of oral evidence regarding potential impacts of the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline on Friday July 27th.

Initial community hearings in April were suspended after a peaceful demonstration caused the Joint Review Panel to raise flags around security. Although the Heiltsuk leadership and the RCMP quickly confirmed that there was no threat, 1.5 days of Heiltsuk testimony were missed.

"We greeted them according to our Heiltsuk protocols with a respectful traditional ceremony", says Slett. "We've worked hard to learn about their process and protocols, but they've done little to learn about ours."

On Friday, July 27, the Panel will hear testimony from the remaining Heiltsuk witnesses whose testimony was not heard in April due to the Panel’s decision to not adjust its schedule to make up for the lost time. It will also hear oral evidence from other community members.

However, the July 27 hearings are now set for Denny Island, across the channel from Bella Bella, and this has raised concerns amongst the Heiltsuk leadership about the Panel’s approach to Aboriginal community consultation.

“The Panel plans to hear our testimony on Denny Island”, says Chief Slett. “We submitted letters and a Notice of Motion to have the hearings in our community, but the hearings will still take place on Denny and in a very small space.”

Chief Slett has flagged issues around accessibility for community members: “We are struggling to mitigate the issues raised by the Panel’s venue choice. Heiltsuk Tribal Council is chartering boats to transport our people, but we shouldn’t have to pay to sit in on a community process.”

Under Heiltsuk cultural protocol, those who gather to witness the carrying out of important business stand as a living, oral historical record. “Under our traditional laws, the whole community has a right to be in that room standing with those who are delivering oral evidence”, says Slett.

“Clearly this is a flawed process, but we’ll continue to participate in good faith as we have from the beginning. It’s the Heiltsuk way; we have a right to be heard and to witness.”

The hearing will commence at 9:00 AM on Friday, July 27 at the Denny Island Community Hall.

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CONTACT: Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett, Heiltsuk Tribal Council, (250) 957-7721 or (250) 957-2381

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