Skip to content

UPDATE: Council attends Wer’suwet’en action camp

Ben Powless writes in rabble.ca that, “Earlier this year, far away from the prying eyes of the media, government offices, or corporate headquarters, in the middle of mosquito country, members of the Wer’suwet’en (also spelled as Wet’suwet’en) First Nation in British Colombia established a camp. Their territory lies along the path of proposed pipelines which Enbridge (and a number of other oil companies) want to build to pipe crude oil to Kitimat, where it could be loaded onto tankers and shipped across the ocean. The camp was a physical and cultural rejection of that plan, set up in May to allow one of the hereditary chiefs to permanently reside there. To inaugurate the camp, the Nation held a five-day gathering, inviting members of nearby communities, the Indigenous Environmental Network, the Council of Canadians, and other allied groups and individuals to come connect with the land, and to share strategies and tactics to protect it.”

Council of Canadians British Columbia-Yukon organizer Harjap Grewal attended the Wer’suwet’en action camp on our behalf this past July 14-19.

In short, the Enbridge plan is that by 2015, an incredible 525,000 barrels of tar sands bitumen a day would be sent through a 1,200 kilometre pipeline across a thousand rivers and streams to Kitimat, British Columbia to be taken by 225 super tankers a year through the narrow Douglas Channel and then across the Pacific Ocean to Asian markets.

On September 1, 2009 The Globe and Mail reported that, “Calgary-based Athabasca Oil Sands Corp. (has) sold a 60-per-cent interest in two of its undeveloped projects near Fort McMurray to the international unit of PetroChina Co. Ltd. (whose parent is the state-owned China National Petroleum Corp.).” These “undeveloped projects” contain an estimated 5 billion barrels of tar sands oil. National Post columnist Don Martin has written that tar sands exports to China, “will require Canada, whose pipelines now head only north and south, to punch a hole in the Rockies and open up a crude flow to the west coast, from where oil could head overseas.”

The Wall Street Journal reported on May 28, 2010 that, “Canadian pipeline company Enbridge Inc. (has) asked regulators to approve the construction of its proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline, which would transport oil from the oil sands region to Canada’s west coast for export overseas (to Asian markets, including China). Enbridge’s application begins the government review of the project, which is expected to be completed by 2012. Construction would begin in 2013. …The C$5.5 billion ($5.2 billion) project would begin to open up Asian markets for Canada’s oil sands industry after its scheduled completion date in 2016.”

The Canwest News Service reported on June 3, 2010 that, “The Harper government has quietly affirmed that… (a 1972 moratorium on oil and gas activity off the British Columbia coast implemented by the Trudeau government) doesn’t apply to oil-tanker traffic, despite the widely held view that such vessels are prohibited from plying the waters along B.C.’s northern coast. The federal government’s position, outlined in a statement issued last year, opens the door to a significant spike in tanker traffic under a $5.5-billion plan by Enbridge Inc.” In late-June, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said a Liberal government would ban crude oil tanker traffic in the Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound, which would effectively kill the Enbridge project.

When asked about the possibility of an oil spill given this amount of tanker traffic, Enbridge CEO Pat Daniel said in May 2010, “Can we promise there will never be an accident? No. Nobody can.”

The Haida, Hasla, Gitga and other First Nations have stated that ‘oil tankers carrying crude oil from the Alberta tar sands will not be allowed to transit’ their lands or waters. The Council of Canadians will be working with Indigenous communities to oppose this pipeline, protect coastal waters, and stop the tar sands.

The rabble.ca blog by Ben Powless can be read at http://rabble.ca/news/2010/09/indian-summer-tar-sands. Council of Canadians campaign blogs on the proposed Enbridge pipeline can be read at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?s=enbridge.