Northern Gateway Pipeline Proposal | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Northern Gateway Pipeline Proposal

The $7.9 billion Northern Gateway project was a pipeline proposal that Enbridge put forward in 2008. Northern Gateway would have carried diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) about 1,170 km from Bruderheim, Alberta to a terminal on the Pacific Ocean at KitimatBritish Columbia. Enbridge claimed that the project would create $1.2 billion in tax revenue for BC, as well as 560 jobs. The Federal Court of Appeal overturned the pipeline’s approval in 2016. That same year, the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the project.

Northern Gateway pipeline (cancelled)


Calgary-based Enbridge proposed Northern Gateway in 2008. The project would have resulted in an estimated 220 oil tankers crossing the rough waters around the Great Bear Rainforest en route to the Pacific Ocean. These tankers would have ferried some of the 525,000 barrels of dilbit shipped each day to the terminal at Kitimat via the pipeline. Many people feared that oil spills were inevitable in the waters of the Douglas Channel, where navigation is difficult. Such spills would threaten vital habitat for fin whaleskiller whales and humpback whales.

The National Energy Board held public consultations on the project spanning 180 days in 2012–13. Most of those who testified at the hearings opposed the project. Its critics included First Nations, environmental groups, the Union of British Columbia Municipalities and a labour union, Unifor. In June 2014, Prime Minister  Stephen Harper approved the pipeline. Two months earlier, Kitimaat, the home community of the  Haisla Nation, had voted against it.

Legal Challenges

In late 2015, the Federal Court of Appeal heard legal challenges against Northern Gateway from eight First Nations, a coalition of four environmental groups led by Ecojustice, and Unifor. The suit claimed that the project’s environmental assessment was incomplete. In its 2016 decision, the court found that the Harper government had failed to adequately consult with First Nations along the pipeline route. This ruling overturned the government’s approval of Northern Gateway. Earlier the same year, the BC Supreme Court had ruled that the provincial government “breached the honour of the Crown by failing to consult” with the Gitga’at (see Tsimshian) and other First Nations on Northern Gateway.

Northern Gateway pipeline protest
A collection of signs posted by First Nations in Haida Gwaii protesting the building of the Northern Gateway pipeline. Photo taken on 22 February 2013.


In January 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed that his government would not support the project.

Key Terms: Northern Gateway Pipeline Proposal


Thick, dark mixtures of hydrocarbons sourced in the earth or in the process of refining petroleum.

Diluted bitumen (“dilbit”)

Bitumen that has been diluted with lighter types of petroleum so that it will flow through pipelines.