The Canadian government backed plans by Enbridge to build its Northern Gateway pipeline to carry oil from tar sands projects in Alberta province to the coast of British Columbia. Opponents to the pipeline expressed concern over the environmental threats posed by Alberta crude.
Martin Louie, a tribal leader from British Columbia, said during a protest in Edmonton there was a heightened risk of oil spills along the pristine west coast should Enbridge move ahead with Northern Gateway construction.
"Governments can't pretend we're not here," he was quoted by the Edmonton Journal as saying. "Everybody's watching, the world is watching how Canada treats the aboriginal people of the land ... and they're going to be watching us for awhile."
The Northern Gateway pipeline would carry so-called tar sands oil from Alberta to the country's west coast. Environmental groups have dubbed Alberta crude the dirtiest form of oil on earth because of its corrosive properties.
Enbridge spokesman Todd Nogier said the company aimed to have a dialogue with pipeline opponents to highlight the potential economic benefits to Canadian First Nations.
"(They've) made their position known to us before," he was quoted as saying.