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Four Dene clans officially reject Northern Gateway pipeline

Members of the Yinka Dene Alliance march through downtown Calgary on May 11, 2011 to protest against Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project.

Jeff McIntosh/Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

A group of First Nations with territory covering a quarter of the route for the proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline met with federal representatives Friday to officially reject the project.

Officials with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, the National Energy Board and Fisheries and Oceans Canada met with the four clans of the Yinka Dene in Fort St. James, and listened as dozens of elders and hereditary and elected chiefs said "No."

"We do not, we will not, allow this pipeline," Peter Erickson, a hereditary chief of the Nak'azdli First Nation, told the six federal bureaucrats. "We're going to send the message today to the federal government and to the company itself: Their pipeline is dead. Under no circumstances will that proposal be allowed.

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"Their pipeline is now a pipe dream."

The bands said the project is now banned from Yinka Dene territories, under their traditional laws.

Members young and old of the Nadleh Whut'en, Nak'azdli, Saik'uz, Takla Lake, Tl'azt'en and Wet'suwet'en communities were unanimous.

They said the decision by the four clans marks the end of negotiations.

The pipeline project faces a major hurdle in getting First Nations on board but behind-the-scenes negotiations have continued with many groups. The company has also signed several benefits agreements with First Nations, though few of them admit publicly to the deals.

The Yinka Dene have spearheaded a petition against the pipeline that has been signed by 160 First Nations groups in B.C. – most not located near the proposed pipeline route.

Last month, the company announced that it asked former conservative minister of Indian affairs Jim Prentice to try to mediate deals with First Nations opposed to the project.

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