The Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Project: A bear burden or the key to economic growth?

In our recent poster conference touching on a wide range of current conservation hot topics, Louise introduced a current plan that is causing controversy between the First Nations and the federal government. The Canadian company, Enbridge inc, plan to build a twin pipeline from Bruderheim, Alberta to Kitimat, British Columbia (figure 1). This plan is known as the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Project (ENGP).


Figure 1. A map showing the planned pipeline. (Image from Northern Gateway –

It is no secret that there has been a large increase in the demand for natural resource extraction processes1, however the impact this may have on the environment and ecosystem is of equal concern. Arguments put forward by the government are economy-based, whereas the first nations take an environmental stance. Louise presented both sides of the argument in her presentation.

The corporation and government behind the proposal suggest the Canadian economy will soar if trade links with Asian and World markets are developed1. It is also estimated that there will be $1 billion benefits available for the first nations if the project was to go ahead, and 10% of stakeholders would be within First Nation communities2.

On the other hand, the land in question has been inhabited by indigenous communities for thousands of years, the construction of the pipeline would have major impacts on their livelihoods3. Contamination from the pipeline is also a major concern, as this could reduce biodiversity and productivity1. The Kermode bear, also known as the “spirit bear” (figure 2) would possibly be impacted, as the Great Bear Rainforest lies on the proposed pipeline route1. The impact on the key stone species salmon is also a cause for concern, as these can be considered a foundation species for ecological processes and food webs4.


Figure 2. The Kermode bear looks at ease here, however the proposed pipeline threatens their habitat. (Image from–food.html).

This project has presented a case of lack of communication with the First Nation communities, which has therefore lead to lack of trust. The First Nations feel that not enough effort has gone into environmental assessment and habitat protection. As of September 2016, it was announced that Northern Gateway will not appeal a recent Federal Court of Appeal decision that reversed the project’s federal approval certificate, however they are hopeful that the project will get the green light sometime in the future! Keep up to date with the project status via Northern Gateway’s website –

By Nicola


  1. MacDuffee, M., A.R. Rosenberger, R. Dixon, M.H.H. Price,
    and P.C. Paquet. 2013. Embroiled, Volume 1: Salmon, tankers and the Enbridge Northern Gateway Proposal. Raincoast Conservation Foundation. Sidney, British Columbia. Vers 01-13, pp. 107.
  2. Zelezny, c. Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline. Anthropology Students Association, 87.
  3. McCreary, T. A. and Milligan, R. A. 2014. Pipelines, permits, and protests: Carrier Sekani encounters with the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project. Cultural geographies, 21(1), 115-129.
  4. Kazlauskiene, N., Vosyliene, M.Z. and Ratkelyte, E. (2008). The Comparative Study Of The Overall Effect Of Crude Oil On Fish In Early Stages Of Development. Dangerous Pollutants (Xenobiotics) in Urban Water Cycle, pp.307-316

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