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Drinking from the river at the Unist’ot’en Camp

“We are determined to protect this land for future generations, and in the process do our bit to shut down the toxic fossil fuel infrastructure that threatens all forms of living life on this planet.” –  Unist’ot’en camp

I recently returned from the 6th Annual Unist’ot’en Camp where a diversity of people came together to participate in and conduct workshops, continue the construction of the Healing Centre, and discuss how we could lend solidarity to the Unist’ot’en people fighting numerous oil and gas pipelines on their territory.

What is amazing about the place is that you can drink directly out of the river, which is called the Wedzin Kwah (also known as the Morice River, a tributary to the Skeena and Bulkley Rivers. Photo above:CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Jen Castro). It is one of the few places left around the world that you can do that and why it’s critical for us to support the Unist’ot’en people in their work  to protect this river, the surrounding waters and land.

At the end of June, Chevron’s received permits to start clearing the path for construction of the Pacific Trails Pipeline (PTP), a 463-kilometre fracked gas pipeline that would run between Summit Lake and a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal to be built in Kitimat by Chevron.

There has been increased police presence in the area and RCMP tried to enter the territory days after the camp ended. The Unist’ot’en website recently posted, “It is becoming clear that the situation here is moving toward an escalation point. Chevron has set up a base in Houston in order to do work on the secton of Pacific Trails Pipeline that crosses our traditional territory.” They are calling for people to stand with them on the front line against Chevron, make donations or organize solidarity actions. For more info, click here.

Last week, Chevron representatives tried to enter Unist’ot’en territory at a protocol checkpoint. Watch this video of Chevron bringing industrial tobacco and a case of Nestle bottled water (to a community that can drinking directly from the river). Freda Huson, Unist’ot’en spokesperson, talks about the impacts of the PTP and affirming the need for meaningful consultation and consent.

6th Annual Unist’ot’en Camp

(Photo above:CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Jen Castro)

At the 6th annual camp, there were workshops held on decolonization, healing and trauma, real climate solutions, legal and media skills, intersectionality and water and other topics.

AJ Klein (community activist and organizing assistant for the Council of Canadians), Teresa Diewert (Council of Canadians and Rising Tide activist), Raquel Park (Rising Tide) and I facilitated a workshop on intersectionality and different forms of oppression, water  and the Flood the System initiative. AJ walked people through what intersectionality is and the different forms of oppression that create the conditions for pipelines and fracking to occur. I talked about different water examples and issues like fracking, drinking water advisories in Indigenous communities, the Detroit water cut offs and water as a commons. Flood the System will begin this fall and are a series of actions that will address these different forms of oppressions.

Many people helped with the building of the Healing Lodge. As the Unist’ot’en Camp website states: “Many people first get involved with the Unist’ot’en Camp because our stance is clear and no nonsense – there will be no pipelines built on Unist’ot’en land. But they soon realize that…it is [also] a place of learning, of healing, of connecting with nature, of breaking with the legacy of colonization. Now this work will be expanded and consolidated through the establishment of a Healing Centre.”

The Healing Centre will focus on Indigenous youth and have counselling rooms, meeting rooms,a kitchen and dining hall and sleeping quarters. Click here to donate to the building of this important building.

Extreme energy in northern B.C.

After leaving the camp, AJ and I participated in a meeting organized by the Terrace chapter of the Council of Canadians. Nearly 30 people attended from Terrace, Kitimat and Digby Island and many raised concerns about fracking and how the proposed LNG terminals would impact their communities.

The drive from the Unist’ot’en camp to Terrace was incredibly beautiful. We drove mostly along the Skeena River, which is being threatened by Petronas’ LNG proposal and other projects yet has one of the largest salmon runs in the world.

(Photo below: Skeena River at Kitseguecla River)

The next day, we traveled to Smithers to speak at a community potluck and townhall on extreme energy projects including tar sands, fracking and Site C.

LNG terminals along the Pacific Coast

There are up to 18 proposals to build LNG terminals along the Pacific Coast. Communities have raised concerns about tanker safety, impacts on salmon and other fisheries, the need for free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous communities and how the expansion of fracking to supply the terminals will impact water sources, climate change and public health.

Pacific NorthWest, led by Malaysia’s state-owned Petronas, agreed to invest in a LNG project on Lelu Island in northwestern British Columbia. Its terminal could be operational by 2018 and would be serviced by the Prince Rupert Gas Transmission pipeline. The Lax Kw’alaams First Nation voted unanimously to reject the deal last month despite being offered $1.15 billion for its approval.

At the beginning of July, a 140-page project-development agreement between the provincial government and Pacific NorthWest LNG revealed that the consortium would be entitled to compensation – to the tune of $25 million per year – if the B.C. government were to increase energy or environmental taxes.

CBC reported that late last Tuesday, Christy Clark’s government passed 25 year legislation during “an unusual summer legislative sitting to push through the bill.” The legislation giving the province authority to enter into LNG deals.

Being at the Unist’ot’en camp was an incredibly moving experience and so inspiring to see people have the courage to put their bodies on the line to defend water, land and our climate. Visiting communities that have fought tar sands pipelines and are ready to fight LNG terminals gives hope that despite the B.C. government being bent on expanding fossil fuels – including fracked gas – in the province, there is a strong movement of people that are determined to create a future lit with green energy, sustained by green jobs and progressive policies that protect our water for generations to come.