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Public event: Northern Gateway – From Tar Sands to Tankers – In Whose Interest?

I just returned from a lunch hosted by Environmental Defence featuring several speakers at a public eventbeing held tonight in Ottawa

The event, Northern Gateway: From Tar Sands to Tankers – In Whose Interest? sponsored by Environmental Defence and the West Coast Environmental Law, features Chief Jackie Thomas, Saik’uz First Nation, Yinka Dene Alliance, Gerland Amos, former elected chief councillor, Kitamaat Village, Haisla Nation, Arnie Nagy, United Fisherman’s and Allied Workers’ Union Michael Uehara, President, King Pacific Lodge and Josh Paterson, Staff Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law.

I had the opportunity to meet and hear from Chief Jackie, Arnie, Michael and Josh over lunch shared with a number of individuals working with NGOs and unions with Ottawa offices. All represent communities and interests that stand to be devastated by the impacts of a spill if the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline proceeds.

Chief Jackie Thomas, famously quoted for saying, “I have news for you Mr. Harper: you’re never going to achieve your dream of pushing pipelines through our rivers and lands. We will be the wall that Enbridge cannot break through”  described the Yinka Dene Alliance’s ongoing resistance to the Enbridge and Kinder Morgan expansion pipelines. She called for solidarity and support for their resistance.

Arnie described how a spill would impact his community and the fishery industry he is part of. He told us about the incredibly risky conditions of the waters tankers would need to navigate, including hurricane force winds and 40-50 foot waves. He showed us pictures of boats that have been damaged after navigating these waters. He also shared pictures of the recent rally in Prince Rupert that gathered around 2000 people – this is the official police count, which differs from the ‘hundreds’ or twenty to thirty reported in the mainstream media – to oppose tankers and the Enbridge pipeline.

Michael captured well what many of us feel in opposing projects such as these. He was asked once how the community in which he lives, Hartley Bay, with such a small population could stand against the interests of Canadians in exporting oil. While recognizing that we are all reliant on oil to varying extents, he explained that he knows of no one that would willingly say they are prepared to destroy a wild area. Instead he see’s their opposition to the pipeline proposal as defending the interests of billions who want to see wild areas preserved.

If you are in Ottawa, consider attending tonight’s public event. The delegation will be part of a press conference tomorrow morning followed by meetings on the Hill with MPs.