The BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) signed a Solidarity Accord Friday, affirming its support of the Save the Fraser Declaration, an Indigenous law signed by representatives of well over 100 First Nations banning tar sands transport through their territories.
The addition of the 65,000 member union (about a third of whom work in direct government service) to a growing alliance of tar sands pipeline opponents, puts additional pressure on the BC government as it prepares to respond to a recent Supreme Court ruling requiring it to make a decision on Northern Gateway and to consult First Nations before doing so.
“We agree with the recent ruling of the BC Supreme Court that the Province has not met its duty to consult First Nations on Enbridge’s Northern Gateway,” said Paul Finch, Treasurer of the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union. “Provincial decision-making on Northern Gateway is an issue that impacts BCGEU members, and we believe deeply that staunch opposition from First Nations cannot be ignored by governments in dealing with these types of proposals. We are proud to support the Save the Fraser Declaration, which demonstrates the resolve of First Nations in refusing consent for Northern Gateway.”
The Solidarity Accord, which has also been signed by other labour unions such as Unifor and the BC Teachers’ Federation, as well as business, environmental and community groups, was spearheaded by the Yinka Dene Alliance, whose members’ territories represent 25% of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline route.
“We have never wavered from upholding our own laws and our conclusion that the risks are too great to allow Enbridge’s Northern Gateway and similar tar sands projects to cross our territories,” said Chief Stanley Thomas of Saik’uz First Nation.
“It has been heartening to see how strongly we are supported by people throughout Canada,” said Nak’azdli Chief Fred Sam. “To have the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union standing alongside us is a welcome reminder of that.”
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, stated: “BCGEU’s endorsement of the Save the Fraser Declaration is indicative that more and more Canadians are committing to respect the laws and authority of First Nations and their efforts to protect the environment, fisheries and the health and safety of all BC communities from Enbridge’s Northern Gateway and other tar sands projects. Premier Clark and Prime Minister Trudeau be advised: the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway is dead, dead, dead. We call on you to stand with us, and to work with us to come up with alternatives for real change.”