Eight Haidas showed support for the Northern Gateway pipeline last week as a firm called Haida Hereditary Chefs of North Haida Gwaii LLP.
Only four are hereditary chiefs.
The group incorporated in March, when they also signed a letter endorsing a three-year extension for Enbridge’s crude oil export project.
“We require more time to engage with Northern Gateway, in light of significant engagement progress made over the course of the past year,” they wrote.
In the last year, Enbridge has offered First Nations and Metis living along the Northern Gateway pipeline route the chance to own up to a third of the project, up from 10 per cent—an increase that would double their shared benefits to $2 billion.
The chiefs’ letter only went public last Wednesday, when it was received by the National Energy Board.
Copies flew around Masset and Old Massett as surprised residents learned of the group and its support for the controversial project.
On Facebook, several denounced it as a case of “Rent-a-Chief.”
Peter Lantin (kil tlaats’gaa), president of the Haida Nation, said in a radio interview that the chiefs involved do not have the support of their clans.
Hours after the letter went public, news arrived that the Haida and seven other First Nations won a federal court ruling that overturns the 2014 approval of Northern Gateway.
In its own letter to the National Energy Board, the Council of the Haida Nation opposed the Northern Gateway extension, said it is the sole collective voice for the Haida Nation, and criticized Northern Gateway for offering money to Haida hereditary leaders in exchange for their support.
Such efforts, said the CHN, are “contrary to the spirit and intent of Canada’s commitment to both reconciliation and a ‘renewed relationship with Indigenous Peoples.”
The CHN also cited the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which requires the free, prior and informed consent of First Nations—and from representatives of the people’s own choosing.
“Under Canadian and Haida law, Enbridge cannot meet any project approval conditions through engagement with any Haida governing body other than the CHN.”
In its filing to the National Energy Board, the CHN included draft copies of contracts that Northern Gateway offered Haida chiefs in exchange for their support.
Northern Gateway offered $10,000 to help chiefs set up a corporate structure and up to $90,000 “to promote traditional cultural activities of their choosing.”
The contracts also offer $50,000 to help chiefs negotiate work contracts for related emergency response and marine services—work that might include running tugs or spotter boats, as well as studies of things like tanker drift and local marine birds.
The contracts also say chiefs can negotiate up to $5 million in sole-sourced construction contracts and offer a “first mover advantage” should the Haida chiefs be “the first coastal community to partner up with Northern Gateway.”
Calls to the Hereditary Chefs of North Haida Gwaii LLP were not returned by the Observer press deadline.
Wilson Brown, one of the eight who signed the letter, posted a Facebook note to explain the letter to members of his clan.
“It says ‘hereditary Leaders’ which refers to the chiefs who are part of our persuit of a fair process in the event Tankers start moving regardless of what the Haida say,” said Wilson, noting that he has made it clear to Enbridge that neither he nor his father are potlatched chiefs.
Under review from 2005 to 2014, the Northern Gateway project has so far cost Enbridge $630 million, including $100 spent after the now-overturned 2014 approval to meet conditions attached to that approval and to build First Nations and Métis support.