Cullen urges Enbridge JRP to return to scheduled hearings in Bella

SMITHERS - It is very important that talks today aimed at resuming community hearings in Bella Bella for the Enbridge Joint Review Panel are successful, Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen said from Ottawa today.

“It would be very unfortunate if the panel leaves the community without hearing from residents who stand to be among the most affected by the huge volume of oil tanker traffic over the life of this project,” Cullen said.

Early this morning the JRP announced it had cancelled today’s community hearings in Bella Bella because of perceived “security concerns” stemming from a protest at the airport there yesterday.   The JRP had been scheduled to sit four days in Bella Bella, beginning today.  Heiltsuk First Nation and community leaders and JRP officials are meeting this hour to ensure the remaining three days of hearings go ahead as planned and how they will proceed.

“The hearings must resume, plain and simple,” Cullen said today.  “People have a right to protest the project, as they have been since the JRP hearings began two months ago, without their actions being falsely framed as a security issue.”

Cullen noted all other JRP hearings in the Northwest, including the Rupert session at which he presented oral evidence, have drawn large crowds.  He pointed out all events have been respectful and without incident.  Nor were there any reports of security concerns from others at the Bella Bella airport yesterday, including North Coast MLA Gary Coons and the RCMP.

“Why shut things down in Bella Bella?” he asked. “What message is being conveyed to people who have the right to speak up?

“Let’s be realistic here, it’s the residents along the proposed pipeline route and coastal communities who really feel threatened, not the other way around,” said Cullen, who spoke with Heiltsuk Chief Councillor Marilyn Slett earlier today.

“We are facing a bully for a prime minister and a company that can't promise the Northwest what we need to survive - no oil pipeline accidents on the land and no tanker spills at sea.”

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Contact: Shelley Browne, cullen1@parl.gc.ca or 250-877-4140